May 17, 2019

Best tube amp for the Focal Elegia?

Okay so I made a previous post about what closed-back headphone to get for less than $1000 and I decided to go with the Focal Elegia. These headphones will primarily be for office use and the amp/dac that I was going to use for the office was the Schiit stack. However, after hearing these headphones paired with the Schiit stack I would say that they are absolute detail monsters which may but not always be best for the listening I intend to do at work. Therefore, I am looking for a way to provide a warmer tilt to the sound of Elegia and I thought the best way to do this would be through a tube amp (though a warm sounding solid state would work too). So that's my question. What are some good tube amps or solid state that are known to provide a warmer tilt to the sound headphones. I am currently considering the Monolith Liquid Platinum primarily because I have heard good things about this amp. I would like to keep this amp below $750 ideally and it can not be too large as it will be in a office setting. Thanks!

The Monoprice Liquid Platinum is a very good choice, its a hybrid design with an output impedance of 0.07 so it will play nice with the Focals. Another alternative would be the Schiit Lyr 3.
Consider the MASSDROP CTH + SDAC as well, it's another hybrid design with an ultra low impedance, suitable for IEM's as well as your closed back cans.
What can you tell me about the CTH? Does it add a warmer tilt to a headphone’s sound signature or is it pretty neutral? Have you experimented with swapping out tubes?
The Elegia is a 35 ohm headphone... if you are going tubes I recommend something with an OI of less than 4 ohms... which pretty much limits you to hybrid designs and transformer coupled units. Avoid almost anything with the word OTL in it as they usually have an OI of 10 ohms or more. The platinum is a hybrid tube with a lower OI so is pretty solid choice although you won't need that kind of power for the Elegia.
Thank you for the information! I totally forgot about out OI considerations since I don't quite understand it so I will keep what you said in mind. In terms of the actual tubes to get do you have any recommendations?
Without getting too "into the weeds" a good rule of thumb is the Output Impedance should be roughly 1/8th of the nominal impedance of the headphone. This ensures no frequency response alterations and proper electrical dampening (think amps control over the movement of the driver unit). There are contrary schools of thought but they are in the minority. Luckily the Platinum shares the same tube type as the Gen1 Lyr I have, so I do have some experience in rolling that tube. A good budget NOS(New Old Stock)tube IMO is the Matsushita 6922's sometimes labelled as "Amperex Japan". They can be found for $40 ish a pair and tend to be pretty smooth and "tubey" compared to new productions. I love my 1969 Phillips MiniWatt SQ 6922's but they have tripled in price since I bought them, no longer a "low cost" Amperex. When purchasing look for the "matched pair" option as it will ensure the tube output is similar between the left and right channels. You don't need balanced triodes since two tubes are used in that design. If you get a tube amp that uses a single dual triode tube (like the 6922) then balanced triode matters. It ensure both halves of the tube output similar levels, similar to matched pair when using two tubes. A couple of decent retailers for NOS tubes: I recommend creating an account and waiting for a coupon code. I saved 25% off my Phillips MiniWatts put them around 150 for the pair matched and certified low noise. They are roughly $400 pair now.