Headphone amps do sound different

Most of you will say Duh. But I keep buying more and more expensive headphones trying to get a better sound. Brought a Grado 125, then to a mid-price Audize, then to Grado 1000. Improvements, but still not there. For other reasons not related to headphones, I upgraded to a Class A integrated. When I did finally plug in my Grado 1000’s - there it was. Magic! The sound was clear, open and musical, like a Wet blanket removed. The soundstage was so wide it was as if I was not even wearing headphones at times.

So, that’s my story, I’m sticking to it. Please, no one tell me about some separate headphone amp that will improve it even more.....
Ok, I promise not to tell you about the LTA MZ2.  Congrats on the big sonic jump.  BTW, which integrated do you have?
Not knowing what integrated you have, it's hard to say, but generally speaking, a dedicated headphone amp is going to give you even more joy.  There are some integrateds that have very good headphone amps that are more than an afterthought.
It’s the Luxman 590AXll, first Class A I’ve owned and It’s such a huge improvement over some old Mcintosh I had. Thanks soix...
Deadhead you hint at your wanting more out of the headphone section of your new beautiful looking Luxman even though your thrilled with the match up with your headphones , I’d leave good enough alone and just enjoy it.

Couldn’t agree more ....

A few months ago, I was only using my regular two-channel speaker setup for music. I had a pair of Bose headphones, but they never did anything for me. I had almost written headphones off of my list. Around 2-3 months ago a friend suggested that I give the Sennheiser HD6XX a try. They were going to cost me $175, so I figured why not. Almost immediately, the improvement in sound quality over Bose was phenomenal. And as most audiophiles can relate to, that’s when I stumbled upon the slippery slope of chasing rainbows and unicorns ...

I bought the Hifiman Ananda, which was a considerable step above the HD6XX. I really loved the Hifiman house signature. Open, airy, decent bass. Its main parlor trick -- soundstage height. The only thing that bothered me was the upper FR -- the treble was a bit too sparkly for my taste. It sounded a little unnatural, somewhat plasticky at times. I tried to live with it for 2-3 weeks but just couldn’t get used to the treble. Other than that it was a phenomenal experience.

I realized that I needed to buy at least two more brands, and give them a fair shake before settling on one. So I bought Hifiman Arya and Focal Clear. I was driving them with the headphone amp section of Naim Unitiqute. I can tell you that the Arya is something special. The only issue was that it sounded a bit distant, and maybe a little thin in the midrange. The bass was really good and extended fairly low but I longed for a bit more slam and maybe just a tad more heft. The Focal Clear, on the other hand, had better bass/slam, and was more intimate sounding. But it didn’t have the holographic sound of the Aryas, and the soundstage was a tad bit narrower, albeit I find the imaging to be more precise in the Clears.

So what does all this have to do with amplifiers, which is the topic of this thread? I finally took the plunge and bought the Quicksilver headphone amp. It arrived yesterday, and obviously hasn’t been broken in. But let me tell you ... it blew my mind! Of course given the price, I was expecting an improvement, but was not prepared for this order of magnitude. In most cases, when we upgrade our equipment, we are not wowed initially. We live with it for some time and then it grows on us. Not in this case. The Aryas and the Quicksilver are a match made in heaven. This amp addresses each and every issue I had with the Aryas and takes it not one but several notches above. The midrange has that intimate feel and warmth that I wanted, the bass has the heft and speed that I was hoping for, and it never bleeds into unwanted territory. You get the feeling that this amp has the Aryas by the balls! The soundstage is deeper, wider and more precise than before. Of course, the tube warmth is there but just in the right proportions. If you have the Aryas, you owe it to yourself to try the Quicksilver. It addresses its weaknesses as if it was a match made in heaven.

I’m going to let the amp break in for a few days and then try it with the Focal Clears.