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HOW TO BUY HEADPHONE AMPLIFIERS

Looking to make the most of your headphone setup? Paul Rigby looks at the power source and offers useful buying advice on a range of headphone amplifiers…
Sennheiser’s HDV 820 Digital Headphone Amplifier/DAC

How do you listen to your records? Do you use speakers or headphones? Or both? Some people prefer to listen to their music via headphones while, for others, there’s little choice. If you’re in a small living space and have late-night listening and the neighbours to consider – or you run the risk of waking up the kiddies, or if they or your pets threaten the safety of your precious speakers, then headphones it is.

But how do you use your headphones? Do you plug them into your main amplifter, perchance? If that’s so, then I have to say that I’m frowning right at you. You’ve – quite possibly – invested a lot of cash on your turntable, arm, cartridge, amplifter and, let’s not forget, the headphones themselves… and you’re just plugging them into the amplifter’s headphone socket?

You might ask: what’s the problem with that? Well, it’s a basic argument of hi-fi, really. Hi-fimanufacturers prefer to divide the signal chain up into separate component parts. there are plenty of integrated amplifters on the market – some nice examples, too.

That said, generally speaking, you’ll achieve better sound quality if you separate the controls from the power source to get a preamp and a power amp. You’ll improve sound still further if you separate the stereo power amp into two mono-block power amps. You can ramp up the quality beyond that if you take the power supply out of the preamp and separate it, too, and so on. Th perfect amplifter should occupy about 30 boxes. I exaggerate, but only slightly…

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Long Live Vinyl - Aug-18
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