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Recommendations for budget headphone amp?


jeffinpghpa
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I'm looking at the Radial Key Largo and it does not have a headphone output. The monitor outputs are probably to low to use for headphones and I thought I would consider an inexpensive/decent headphone amp.

 

For a number of reasons, I'm not interested in a Behringer product (I know there are a lot of fans on this forum, I just prefer to eliminate that particular company) so I was looking for a recommendation for headphone practice if I get an RKL.

Yamaha U1 Upright, Roland Fantom 8, Yamaha YC88, Nord Stage 3C, Nord Wave 2, Viscount Legend Live, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2, Arturia V Collection 8, Komplete 13 Ultimate

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Well, as a start, a link below for inspiration. But most in-ear monitor beltpack do what you want, take a line signal and amplify it to headphone level - mono or stereo. You want stereo, so beware the options. Rolls make their own.

https://www.thomann.de/gb/wired_in_ear_monitors.html?ref=intl&shp=eyJjb3VudHJ5IjoiZ2IiLCJjdXJyZW5jeSI6NCwibGFuZ3VhZ2UiOiJlbiJ9

/Bjørn - old gearjunkie, still with lot of GAS
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I use the Rolls PM55P. It's around $81. The Main Outs of the Key Largo go to FOH. The Monitor Outs of the Key Largo go to the 1/4" Monitor in of the Rolls using one of these cables:

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000068O1O/

 

The Mic Input on the Rolls gets an XLR monitor feed from the main mixer. That way I can control my keyboard level with one knob and the monitor feed from the rest of the band with the other.

Nord Stage 3 HA88, Nord Stage 3 Compact, Casio CT-S1, Radial Key Largo, Westone AM Pro 30, Rolls PM55P, K&M 18880 + 18881, Bose S1 Pro, JBL 305p MKII, Zoom Q2n-4K

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The monitor output is plenty for (efficient) headphones or IEMs. I have a Radial KL, and use a cable adapter to take the R & L monitor outputs to stereo mini for IEMs or headphones. I'd test the KL with a $5 adapter before you go to the expense of an additional headphone monitor. If you use IEMs, there's loads of gain to spare, and if it's headphones, it will depend on which ones. However, if it's for practice situations, I'm guessing you'll have no need for a headphone amp.
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Before I bought a dedicated headphone amp for something like that I would consider a little mixer. Much more likely to be mass produced, thus a better value. You never know when you might want to add a second keyboard or need an audio line for practice.
This post edited for speling.
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I have a Key Largo and the lack of headphone output is an oversight IMO.

 

 

But wait--is the monitor out stereo? That...might make a difference for me in my current rig. I wish the aux send was pre-fader though, or at least have an option to be.

 

I've been using a Rolls mx22 (iirc, it's not right by me) for testing my live rig signal since it has a headphone out...I did buy a different power supply for it as the provided one was apparently causing some noise and crosstalk.

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I concur that the headphone amps in most good mixers and audio interfaces are better than most budget standalone headphone amps.

 

I actually have a four-input headphone amp for sale right now, but it's way beyond your budget, even at it's likely final price (high-end headphone amps aren't very popular, so even though it's the best one on the market and only used once or twice, it's not even getting any hits at well below half its original street price). It's the DACS Clarity HeadAmp 3 from the UK.

 

I just don't need that many at once at the moment, and if my needs change, I'll go for portability vs. rack-mount, by buying the one from Sound Devices.

 

Of the budget standalone models though, the one from A.R.T. may give the best quality/price ratio, based on what I've heard in-person and in SOS reviews and elsewhere (I haven't tried the ones from Samson and other more recent budget makers, but each has its unique negatives, including the one(s) from A.R.T.).

 

A big question is how many unique mixes you need going into the headphone amp. I bought the DACS because I thought I needed more than two separate mixes coming into the unit, with different instruments accentuated or missing. For instance, a drummer's headphone mix, one for a lead vocalist (ghost tracking, with reverb applied before entering the headphone amp), one for bassist (ghost tracking) and one for guitar (ghost tracking).

 

Before I bought that unit, I was using a Yamaha MG-series mixer to get headphone mixes for the guitarist and bassist via its busses, and the RME Fireface UFX for two separate mixes (drummer, and vocalist) as it has two reasonable quality headphone amps. The singer got some reverb from the RME's internal processing first.

 

I didn't have such good quality from the headphone amps of Alesis and Mackie mixers over the years. Allen & Heath were pretty good though.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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The Rolls mentioned above, isn't one of the better ones, but is one of the best bang-for-buck, like the A.R.T. head amps. The Rolls is also not one of the worst ones. As a practical-only solution, it's not a bad deal.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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I have that Rolls and imo it's overkill if all you need is a headphone amp. Its purpose is more as an in-ears mixer. It's also a pretty clunky and surprisingly heavy (for its size) steel box - great for when it's getting thrown around in an accessory bag, which I like for my porpoises, but as a headphone amp only I might pass. What about one of these? I'm sure there are more where they came from (China, no doubt):

 

https://www.amazon.com/Headphone-Amplifier-Dual-Output-Boostï¼Headphone-iPadï¼MP3ï¼MP4/dp/B07WDXDNM1/ref=sr_1_1_sspa

 

https://www.amazon.com/FX-Audio-Digital-Decoder-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B07TW2JQNN/ref=sxin_9_pa_sp_search_thematic_sspa

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  • 2 weeks later...
FWIW the price of my super-high-end DACS 4-output unit is now well below that of one from A.R.T., and yet it still has failed to attract even a singer watcher, much less a bid, in the month or so that it's been up.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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Depending on what you'd want sound wise there are various types of headphone amps with different impedance for instance, and depending on the cans/buds and sound source the quality might matter. The amount of power to drive the phones to comfortable level for live or studio or practice monitoring should be enough at that impedance with sufficiently low distortion, but also shouldn't be too much (to stay out of high SPL danger zone.

 

My only monitoring HP amp I trust is a self built one based on high quality audio OpAmp chips with zero output impedance, feeding K271II phones. Most HP amps in instruments and equipment color the sound a bit. It seems to me the Yamaha MG series HP out is subtle and good, with 3 0Ohm.

 

T

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I was going to bite the bullet on something like a Monoprice Liquid Spark, JDS Labs Atom or the Schiit Magni Heresy.

 

Except now all of those "$99 or less" amps are like $120. I guess inflation and difficulty obtaining parts in the supply chain are really hurting these boutique product guys.

 

Meanwhile, there's no shortage or used Samson and Behringer stuff on Ebay for cheap pocket change, but I was kind of hoping for something I could be snobby about for under $100.

Yamaha U1 Upright, Roland Fantom 8, Yamaha YC88, Nord Stage 3C, Nord Wave 2, Viscount Legend Live, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2, Arturia V Collection 8, Komplete 13 Ultimate

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