Headphone amp recommendations

It’s hard to say.

The only headphones I own that I would feel the need to drive from Hugo TT 2’s rear-panel XLRs are the Abyss AB-1266 Phi CC - at least to get the best out of them at loud levels. But at normal levels (say 105 dB peaks) even that isn’t really needed and they sound great straight out of the front panel.

There is a very slight stage benefit to using the rear-panel connections, and potential a hint of increased resolution, from the Hugo TT 2, but the difference likely has more to do with not having shared grounds for the headphone feed than anything else (typical for balanced headphone drive).

In terms of Hugo TT 2 vs. a Phonitor X/Yggdrasil A2 pair …

Well, from one perspective, a Hugo TT 2 is 1/3 the size of the Phonitor X. And a bit shy of 1/5th the size of an Yggdrasil. In fact you could run a stack of Hugo TT2, M-Scaler & TToby amplifier and still come in under the total size of the Phonitor X, never mind the Yggdrasil or the combination.

The Phonitor X is much more flexible … with multiple analog inputs and outputs, much more control on the crossfeed/matrix functions, has front panel access for both single-ended and balanced headphones and proper VU meters. So it can be used with more than one source (e.g. a DAC and a turntable). And it has more single-ended power than the Hugo TT 2.

The Hugo TT 2 is digital-input only. Front panel is single-ended only, and lower power. But the XLR outputs are more powerful than that of the Phonitor X, even though they’re lurking on the back panel.

As a DAC the Hugo TT 2 and Yggdrasil A2 are quite different. The Chord unit is slightly more resolving, has a blacker background, and a more “reference” presentation. The Schiit DAC is moister (it’s not really “wet”) or warmer in its presentation, hits a bit harder in the bass and has more convincing stage (unless you pair the Hugo TT 2 with an M-Scaler).

On pure sonics, if it was just Vérité I was driving, and I only needed digital sources, I’d go with the Hugo TT 2. I think Yggdrasil A2 -> Phonitor X -> Vérité would require using the Vérité pads for me.

If other headphones were involved that might change, and it is, of course, depending on what sort of signature you want (warm/neutral/brighter).

Both setups are very capable, and the value and flexibility of the Schiit/SPL combination is hard to overlook, provided you have the space and don’t mind leaving the DAC on 24/7.


Thanks for the response. It’s interesting that you would use the Verite pads with a Schiit/SPL combination. Is that because of the bottom end slam of the Yggdrasil or because there is a midrange dip as with the Universal pads, or both?

With the Modi Multibit/Phonitor I find that with the Verite pads the bottom end is rather bloated.

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Yggdrasil A2 w/ the Universe pads would be a bit too bass-emphatic for me. My own measurements of the two different pads say that shouldn’t be the case, but it is when I am actually listening.

Yggdrasil A2’s bottom end is as, maybe a bit more, present than the Modi MB, but Yggdrasil’s is better defined, extended, articulated and tighter. So while I doubt it’ll sound bloated, it wouldn’t be the way I would go with those headphones/pads.

Gungnir MB might be a better bet if you find the Modi MB to be too much on the bottom end, as it has switched places with Yggdrasil in overall tonality and presentation since their original versions. Or some other DAC entirely.

Going back to Chord and the ZMF Vérité, 'd been running them quite happily out of a Hugo 2 (the portable one, not the TT 2) on the deck with no issues. Not as good as my Hugo TT 2, but not so far behind I care much … I’m still lost in the music. So maybe the Qutest/Phonitor X combination is also worth considering (I can’t tell the difference between the Qutest or the Hugo 2 when both are fed through the Phonitor X from the same source).

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Thanks for that.

I also find the Verite pads to be more neutral than the Universe pads, especially in the bass department.

The Chord Qutest is an interesting proposition but I would like at least 2 sets of outputs; both the Yggdrasil and Gungnir have 4, not that I need 4.The Schiits are also quite a bit bigger than the Chord but I do like the idea of a sound that is a bit “wet.”

I am going to give this some more thought.

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Have you heard of Decware Taboo headphone amp ?
I bought a pair of Stellia from you. They are nice but really lack soundstage to me. If I wanted to try another closed back can , which would you recommend ? I have Audeze lcd-xc and I prefer them to the Focal, a lot.

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I´m not Taron, but if you want more soundstage in a closed can, you should definitely check out the ZMF Verité Closed can (I haven’t heard it, but read everywhere that the soundstage is quite big for a closed can).


I second the Verite Closed as my personal current favorite closed back…and even overall favorite headphone at this time ( I’m not counting my RAAL SR1A in this as I think the6 aren’t true headphones lol, but something between headphones and a very good stereo system).


I’m not Taron either … but …

I love the Decware Taboo (Mk3 and Mk4), but it’s known more for speed, transparency, lucidity and resolution than for stage.

The Stellia have bigger stage than the other Focal cans, but as others have said the ZMF Vérite Closed are the way to go here for a closed back if stage is important to you.

Another option is the HD820, though I prefer both Stellia and Vérité Closed.


Hi and welcome @Johndc8.

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I just purchased and Fiio A1 and it doesn’t boost much. I think i wasted my money.

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I never consider wasted money, but consider purchases another try at this ever ongoing madness we call a hobby.


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Well, the Fiio A1 isn’t terribly expensive, so at least you didn’t waste to the point of lasting regret. And you might be able to gift it to someone this season.

Before giving up on it, what is driving the amp? A smartphone? And what headphones are you driving with it? Is your main reason for getting the amp that you want to listen louder than you can now? Or to improve the tightness of the sound and bass?

When I first started using a headphone amp, it was because the output of many of the devices of the time was pretty awful. And if you turned up the power it would break up the sound. There is a difference between the old school amps that were designed to boost output, and some of today’s amps that are concerned with boost, regulation and control.

If you are trying to drive headphones that have a high impedance, you will need more power than you get in a tiny amp. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs.

So you are posting in the headphone amp recommendations area. I’ll throw in my 2¢. I’ve had an Electric Avenues PA2v2 amp for many years. For very simple basic amplification, it does a great job, and is very small. If you are not trying to drive difficult headphones, it will do the job, taking output from your smartphone or similar.
Gary, the designer and owner of the company is a good guy, and his website is worth visiting for the lists of good music and deeds.

Others here will suggest the JDS Labs ATOM at the $100 level. From their comments, it sounds as if it will drive just about anything competently. I have not heard one, but I trust the people I have heard talk about it. It seems to have more features than the Electric Avenues above.

Before committing more money, you might want to describe more about your needs and wants. From your pick of the Fiio A1, I presume you are on a tight budget and are looking for very portable.

But do you need only an amp? or a combination DAC and AMP? We are here to help.

PS - I’ve wasted money many times in this hobby. Welcome to the club.


Agreed this hobby can certainly be a money pit.

By the looks of things, my birthday (in a little less than a month) will be spent under confinement (as was my son’s 18th last week and so will my wife’s which is before mine, but I’m interested in the important one… mine :wink: ).

As I won’t be doing anything special, I had might as well get something fun, which in this case is a tube amp.

I am wanting to keep the price down, due to the current situation and uncertainty about the near future in my line of work (plus I’m a cheap skate), and was hoping to stay around the 300 to 400 mark.

My first choice was the Crack but by the time I factor in shipping & import it will work out over the 500 mark. Then there is the wait time and build time to factor in.

I thought about the Vali 2, as I have the Modi and Heresy incoming (if I ever get the container delivered!) but I would prefer something non-hybrid (I already have the P20) and it is not as though it would create a matching stack as my Schiit is black.

On here (and elsewhere) the EC ZDT Jr gets plenty of praise but it is unobtainable from Drop and I would also need to factor in import and shipping (so price wise it would be similar to the Crack but ready built).

I have read that the JR is basically a refinished Laconic Night Blue Mini, which I can get from Russia for around 250, however I have no idea if that is the case or not.

So, I guess my questions are, is it really the same amp?

Has anyone ordered from Laconic in Russia?

Any other amp that I should be considering?

BTW, this will be mainly for driving my HD6XX.

Thanks in advance!

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In that price range the Dark Voice 336SE comes to mind. I know that it measures terribly.

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Thanks Generic but everytime the darkvoice gets mentioned I remember a post from @torq that said something like “if you like listening to poorly recorded noise on low-end Grados…” :smiley:

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Well, you seem to have <$400 burning a hole in your pocket!

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What I have is 30 days of confinement and probably another 30 to go, with a wife, an 18 year old and a toddler, in an apartment :wink:


Shortest Way 51+ (SW51+) … should be about $315 with the upgrade options.

Though I believe you have to order it from Russia or something (I’ve never tried to buy one, just spent a little time with one a friend picked up when they got popular on SBAF). And no idea how long they take to get.

(Since you’ve discounted the only other two pure-tube recommendations I’d make (or want to listen to) in the budget-category; specifically the EC ZDT Jr and Bottlehead Crack).


Thanks @torq, I haven’t heard of the SW51+, I’ll do some research tomorrow on a pc.

I certainly haven’t discarded the Jr, it is just not available which is why I was wondering if there was any truth to it being the same as the Laconic.

I would also love to build a Crack, just it is a pita to get it here between import and probably 12 weeks waiting. Then again, I may still go that route if I don’t find anything else.