Standalone Headphone Amp

Been investigating Headphone Amps over the last few weeks following Xuanqian’s advice with regards to the Altair’s outlet being of “just adequate” quality, and that being true for only the few of the most compatible headphone types as well.

I must admit to being surprised at just how many there are and that headphone listening appears to be an entirely separate branch of “normal” HiFi, I’ve always treated it as a second class citizen or an add on to the main setup that didn’t deserve much consideration or thought.

Looked at Violectric, iFi, Arcam, Schiit, Rupert Neve, Burson, Benchmark, Jds, Smsl, Naim, NuForce, Beyerdynamic, Graham Slee, Lehmann, Musical Fidelity and probably a dozen more, but one tiny unit stood out made by an American company called HeadAmp and appears to be a new take on an old respected design.

So I looked around to see if there were any second hand units because that way if not liked (can’t listen before buying) it can probably be moved on without loosing too much, and a day ago one did pop up on eBay in Germany.

A few questions back and forth now has it on the way via UPS.

So, I was wondering what other Auralic users that are also keen headphone listeners deploy in there systems.

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I wish you all the luck with your nice “Gilmore Girl” :girl:. Well, after I had purchased my very first headphones only three and a half years ago, a pair of Audeze LCD-2s, I soon noticed that I would be in need of a headphone amp. As a shot in the dark I purchased a Burson Conductor. Unfortunately it didn’t meet my demands; I found it’s performance quite unmusical. So finally I took the obvious choice and purchased one of LCD-2’s brethrens, an Audeze Deckard headphone amp. I’ve loved this fine Class-A-amp right from the start. Also, the Deckard possesses a pretty “musical” in-built DAC. Meanwhile, however, I switched the DAC off and make use of the analogue section only because with my Chord Qutest I found a much better DAC. Anyway, as a sole analogue headphone amp my Deckard is the perfect match to my LCD-2 and I don’t want to miss it. It’s a pity that its production has been discontinued.


Hi Robin,

That sure is a looker, I also gave serious consideration to the Deckard but didn’t really want another Dac because the one in my Altair is more than capable for my needs.

In fact what attracted me to the Gilmore Lite (apart from it’s pure A aspect) was it’s simplicity, no preamp and/or gain switches, no multiple headphone sockets, just an input selector, single jack socket and power switch (and I could have lived without the input selector as well).

Interestingly, I believe the Deckard was named after the lead character in Blade Runner, my all time favourite film.

Not so long ago I had in use a VIOLECTRIC HPA V90 headphone amp with at the time my full NAIM configuration. But since I went with AURALIC ARIES G1 and MYTEK BROOKLYN DAC I only use the headphone outputs of the MYTEK and have sold the VIOLECTRIC.
My old ears for shure notice a little difference in favor of the Violectric but the MYTEK outputs are more convenient to use.

Hi Bernard,

Another company I gave serious consideration, but with regards to the latest model.

What a fantastic company name, “Lake People”, and they do match Naim cosmetics a little better than the HeadAmp.

But in the end I decided on the simpler approach, didn’t really need the dip switch abilities for various headphones or multiple outlets.

Must admit though it is a smart looker and the products appears to be highly regarded in the professional recording industry.

This is my headphone setup : aries mini and topping dx7 pro, easily drive my « difficult » he 1000 v2 though balanced 4 pins xlr .


Your two box setup has made me glad I’ve held onto my Mini, I’ll be able to do same in the near future by just adding another unit, probably for the spare room, very tidy.

My preference when it comes to headphone amps.
Right now enjoying it with my Sennheiser HD-800S in a balanced config :slight_smile:


I use this unbeatable monster:


And what’s the name of the monster ?


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Unbeatable Schiit :joy:

Smart, do the valves help with the heating during the winter months.

More dancing means less heating needed perhaps?

My take on headphone amps.
I myself use x2. 1 in my living room & 1 in the bedroom, the bedroom 1 being my preferred choice of the 2 that I have these days.
Living room 1 is kind of an after thought 1 in that it came built into my DAC, A Burson Conductor V2+ :wink: That thing is powerful enough to drive even the most difficult/ demanding headphones that you’ll be throwing at it. Over all its a quality headphone amp & gets rave reviews from what I’ve bothered reading up on. I would only recommend it however if you’ve got yourself some big cans/ hard to drive headphones as it’s complete overkill for most headphones TBH :wink:

My bedroom/ portable headphone amp, the 1 that I prefer is relatively old now but nonetheless still a very very good sounding headphone amp called the “O2” which cost a fraction of the cost of most decent sounding headphone amps. It’s a little black aluminium housing & it runs off of x2 rechargeable 9v square baterries to minimise/ eliminate PSU brick issues being introduced into the sound.
There’s a lot of information online if you Google it & read up on it… It was designed by a guy who gave away it’s design for free & boasted that it sounded so good he’d give whoever bettered it (sound quality wise for under a certain amount of cash spent on the components) a thousand or 10 thousand dollars I believe… I can’t remember the exact $ but I remember that no 1 could better that design sound quality wise & win his money :wink:
I believe it cost me about $130 buying & importing it into the UK at the time… In terms of Hi-Fi gear it’s probably the best bang per buck component I’ve ever ever bought :slight_smile:
I use IEM’s myself & the O2 pairs up lovely with both of my IEM’s…My Senhesier IE800’s & My Shure 535 Ltd Edition Reds… I use my IE800’s if wanting a bit more bass & I use the Shure 535 Reds if wanting extra clarity…
The O2 pairs up nicely with both of those IEM’s & it’s still available I believe in either Kit form or built up form for roughly $150 new or less Maybe :wink:
BTW just as an after thought… I’ve always had DAPs from like day 1 like Astell & Kern AK120’s & Colorfly C4 Pro’s so I know my headphone stuff rather well. The cheaply priced O2 competes with the big expensive brands easily sound quality wise for sure :wink:
I hope you settle on what’s right for your particular needs friend, good luck :wink:

Hi Neil,

Thanks for the comments regarding headphone listening, it’s much appreciated.

I’ve just received the little Gilmore Lite which is now safely installed in my main system and nicely warming up, and initial impressions are very favourable indeed.

It’s detailed without being harsh and the bottom end is just so much better than via the Altair, but without being overpowering, I suppose that’s down to the fact it has more power to drive the phones better (the volume position in pic is all I need).

Was pleasantly surprised to see it’s the latest version with upgraded graphics to match (so the rumours say) the forthcoming standalone power supply, what that will bring to the mix I’m unsure but there is room on the shelf just in case!

Can’t wait to hear how it matures with a few hours on the clock because the seller only had it in place for a day or two before he got offered a Stax system (too rich for my blood), so it’s not even run in yet.

Anyhow, I’ll wait a few weeks to see how it fleshes out but impressions are it really deserves something better than my old Grado SR80 (but I suspected that would be the case when reading up on it’s abilities), but I’m holding myself back a little now before jumping into headphone selection.

Good to hear your happy with the headphone amp you settled on buying.
Now from what you’re saying you’ll just need to keep a lid on how crazy you go cash wise on newer headphones.
In recent years the whole headphones, headphone Amps & DACs combos market has grown greatly… There’s so much stuff out there now.
I quit upgrading in that area long ago after having caught the usual upgrade bug regards it all for a few yrs worth. TBH the stuff I’ve got does me fine & I rarely listen to in ear stuff nowadays anyways so that too helps divert my attention away from wanting better Cans & better headphone Amps thank God :wink:

Maybe a newer more recent version of the over ear Grado’s might be the very thing for you by the sounds of it :wink: Enjoy whatever you opt for :wink:

Don‘t worry, I doubt that in this forum you’ll be able to discover a buyer of greater prudence than Simon. Sometimes I wish I could take a leaf out of his book.


Hi Neil and Robin,

It’s still very early days but this little gem really is good, even with my elderly pair of headphones.

The detail it drags up is startling to be honest, but without being in your face or annoying over time.

My presumption that I will need a better headphone is largely based on reviews and the logic that my two are just so old now, but I’m still in no rush at the moment because I’ve discovered a nice “twist” with respect to the Grado’s.

Due to their age I’ve collected a selection of replacement ear pads over the years, some like the OEM type that come with the current version (the S cushion) and others that appear to be like that supplied on the higher range models (the L cushion).

Now the original pad for the standard original “80” was known as the “Flat Pad” which is no longer available, the closest being a cross between the S and L, hence my collection. I’ve been using the S type for the last few years because they gave a little more detail that suited more laidback Amps, but just out of chance decided to give the L type a try with the Gilmore, and I like the result a little more still.

So I appear to have made a great leap forward in sound quality by including the Gilmore and a very slight one with the L cushions, it’s nice when it all works out as this seems to be doing.

With regards to the Sony MDR-V7, they are already a very detailed headphone and therefore not as good a match to the Gilmore as the Grado (can’t win them all), the combination just feels a little too much and certainly aligns with reviews that this Sony has what’s called a slight V frequency characteristic (ie elevated bass and treble).

Anyhow, that’s the latest and I haven’t even taken in to account the forthcoming external power supply that’s supposedly in the works, a lot of potential awaits!

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For the power supply you should look no further than here: