A/V Receivers and which high-end headphones "if any" will sound best for it's purpose?

Cyan69 here HI…I was wondering if any enthusiasts for this hobby…Can clarify to me, should high- end headphones be plugged/used on a/v receivers? And if so…what is a really good headphone for this purpose? I own the HIFIMAN Sundara, and now am thinking I should ask what a stellar headphone would be to upgrade to…if need be? Genre picking: rock,classic rock,heavy metal,pop and everything else…Maybe the Clears? $1000-$2000 range or different gear?


a/v receivers typically focus on speaker sound rather than headphones.

Any headphone with the proper connector can work with an a/v receiver. The question of whether you are getting the full benefit of high end headphones with a receiver is trickier.

It’s certainly possible that you will like a higher end headphone better than the Sundara but only you will be able to say if the difference is worth the expense.

Also, the sound track for movies is compressed so that could also limit how much benefit you would get from high end headphones.

I can’t give specific headphone model advice but others here will probably have some thoughts about models.


In my experience A/V receivers add little or no value for headphones. I was shocked several years ago upon plugging my HD-600s into a 30 pound A/V receiver that sounded pretty good with speakers. With headphones it was worse than an ordinary computer or tablet audio output jack. Unless the receiver makes a big deal about headphone quality (few do), I assume they added the headphone jack as a convenience and basic check-box item.

The Clear is easy to drive and runs well on a weak amplifier. It sounds respectable with basic PC, phone, or tablet (and likely an A/V receiver too). IMO the Clear is a great all-arounder, and it was my personal choice. I like it best it on a slightly warm solid state amp or clean tube/tube hybrid amp.

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Headphone outputs in modern receivers are generally an afterthought and low quality. See @Monsterzero’s video about using vintage receivers with headphones:


An option to consider is using a headphone speaker adapter with your Zone 2 speaker connectors. That would offer plenty of juice. A dedicated headphone amp is generally a better option, but the speaker headphone adapter does work adequately in most cases. The single ended headphone amps offered on most AVRs are an afterthought. Not for sensitive headphones.

Modern receivers have a separate opamp based amplifier for headphones, if you’re thinking it will use the same amplification speakers as the speaker circuit you’re wrong. It’s typically no better than a cheap phone since it is basically a cheap phone circuit.

Very, very few receivers use the same amplifier circuit for headphones, Harman Kardon has this and I was really impressed with the sound using HD650 from the 3370 and 3490. Don’t know how modern ones fair.

Vintage receivers are good because they also use the main speakers amplification and as with Harman there’s a resistor in series to keep the power down, it does some nasty things like raise the impedance but if you’re using it casually with moderate expectations it should be good enough but no more.

I tried this convenience option myself with the above amps but in the end went back to dedicated headphone amps as the trade wasn’t enough due to loss of audio quality even for media consumption.


I have personally used this option with the (manufacturer issued) speaker terminal balanced headphone adapter in Zone 2 of my Anthem MRX720 with HiFiMan HE6se headphones. Performance was acceptable.

Before you tell me I’m wrong, have you ever utilized such a setup, or are you speaking from a theoretical point of view. I’d be interested in your personal experiences with this.

I still have the Harman Kardon 3490 somewhere and used it for a few weeks with headphones, the 3390 before it. For a secondary system it was OK yet in the end it had too many thorns I didn’t want to suffer.
No A/V Receivers are best for this purpose because they’re afterthoughts, vintage ones in the 80’s…the golden era are at the top, I wouldn’t try anything modern for this purpose.

You’d be far better using the speaker taps with an impedance matching box. That would have been my next step if I’d continued down that road, get a amplifier/receiver with A/B channels and I could switch between speakers and headphones.

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I considered the adapter a temporary solution. Performance was acceptable, but not as good as a dedicated headphone amp with adequate amp power. The HE6se (83db SPL sensitivity) need two watts. Only one of my headphones amps can really drive them adequately (GSX-mini)…

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Yes, absolutely, but this is about using receivers and they’ll never ever ever be anywhere close to a dedicated headphone amp never mind a Headamp that’s already standing out in its category.
Also A/V receiver < power amplifier.

I think you are over generalizing. An underpowered headphone amp would not perform to the level of speaker taps from a AVR on headphones requiring high drive wattage. That’s why manufacturers like HiFiMan make those adapters.

In 99.99% of cases ~$100 units like Schiit’s Magni 3+/Heresy, JDS Labs Atom, Geshelli or Topping offerings will obliterate the subjective and objective headphone output performance of any modern AVR.


Are you referring to the front panel headphone amp, or speaker taps running low sensitivity headphones like Susvara. A headphone amp putting out less than 1 watt might have a little trouble with low 80s db sensitivity cans. Granted if you can afford Susvara, you’ll have a headphone amp that can run it. I had adequate success running the adapter with HE6se from the Zone 2 speaker taps on my Anthem MRX.

Klipsch heritage headphone amplifier; Know…Questyle cma400i; Know…JDS Labs Objective 2/w ODAC + optical; Know…None of these were magic to my hears. How much money should be spent or am I auditioning down the wrong pathway? Headphones or gear? I have DSD files and FLAC 196/24 files… My receiver decodes everything from the Sony blu-ray player…and I use my OPPO-103d player for the same purpose. Do I need a DAC or headphone amplifier?

Budget? They are some great options out there, even some combo units.

What is your exact audio chain?

Eg. : PC > DAC > amp > headphone

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Is there a good way to get a digital out from an AVR that bypasses the AVR’s internal DAC? The little research I have done does not appear to show many AVRs (if any) that offer this option. Would be nice if there was a way to get a good digital signal out of the AVR to a separate DAC and headphone amp. Would certainly be a much better listening experience than the 1/4" headphone out of a AVR, even with an inexpensive DAC/Amp, like Torq mentioned above. Not much outlay, cash wise, for significantly better audio.

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AVRs are all-in-one by design. This means they keep everything streamlined and in the same unit. It saves money and eliminates complexity – they are already a mess. Separates are available in every price bracket, and it doesn’t cost a lot to beat an AVR.


I’m not aware. If no good way and depending on your system, the split/dual output would need to occur earlier in the chain.

What model AVR receiver is it?