HD6xx + Audio Interface + Headphone Amp?

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I'm looking for more volume for the HD6xx from my USB audio interface (SSL 2)...the phones pot has to be turned up all the way to get a decent level (and I'm concerned that it may also be raising the noise floor). The sound quality from the SSL is great (at lower levels), and I assume it has a decent DAC. Is there a low-cost headphone amp ($100 or so) that would work well with the 6xx (without an external DAC) or will a "starter amp" have a poorer sound quality than the SSL?
(Edited)
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jklemmer08
31
Jan 12, 2021
I had been using the Alex Cavalli designed liquid spark amp before upgrading recently, it's right around $100 from Monoprice and I loved it. Additionally, you could check out the iFi Zen DAC which is a little more expensive ($130ish on Amazon) but has a decent built-in headphone amplifier and gives you a balanced option which would let you get more power out of your cans, very cost effective for desktop listening.
bcab17
3
Jan 13, 2021
Thanks again for your help. Just so I understand, are you saying that it's ok to use the SSL's headphone out to the HP amp in? I was concerned that sending an already amplified signal to a HP amp would not be a good idea. There are several headphone amps/distribution boxes for the recording studio crowd...usually to be able to connect several headphones, each with level control. I don't have that need. I never need more than two headphones at a time, and the SSL 2+ has two headphone connections and volume controls, which was perfect for me. Adding 300 ohm headphones is what started my search for a HP amp.
jklemmer08
31
Jan 14, 2021
It shouldn't be an issue, I would just keep the gain on the SSL at a set level so you don't blow your eardrums out. I was only suggesting recording specific amps because they have the input/outputs that you are looking for, but there's an adaptor for everything.
rastus
1319
Jan 11, 2021
A quick look at the SSL, and w/o swappable op-amps you are simply ‘there’. It has nice JRC ones, not MUSES, but just fine. To get some headroom in power and clean up a bit, I would look at the THX 789 as an amp. You can feed it from the SSL line out, then... of course upgrade your DAC later... never ends;) You can pause for a bit, I’m trying it now, somewhat successfully...
bcab17
3
Jan 13, 2021
Great stuff...thank you! The SSL 2+ has two balanced (1/4") and two unbalanced (RCA) line outs. My powered near-field monitors have balanced inputs. So, they are connected using the SSL's balanced outs. If I used the RCA outs to connect to a HP amp, the single monitor volume knob on the interface would simultaneously control the HP and speaker volume (I would have to unplug the speakers from the interface for private listening...not what I would want to do). The other approach (I suppose) would be to use just one connection path, SSL to HP amp, HP amp pre-outs to powered speakers. Then the speakers would be off when a headphones are plugged into the HP amp, correct? So, now the issue is balanced vs unbalanced. In this $100 to $150 price range, I've seen a number of HP amps with RCA unbalanced pre-outs, but my powered monitors have balanced inputs. What happens when you connect unbalanced outs to balanced ins? If there was a HP amp with balanced ins and balanced pre-outs, that would seem to be the best way to go...but I have seen nothing like that in this "starter price range".
rastus
1319
Jan 15, 2021
Yeah, kinda starts to get messy... perhaps someone here has run into this? My thinking is going back to putting an O2 on the HP out... I start looking at stuff like this, https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/CleanBoxPro--art-cleanboxpro-2-channel-balanced-unbalanced-level-converter , and start seeing snakes 🐍,, not nice music out of headphones...
(Edited)
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