TOTL Headphone Amps


Looking for some feedback on what TOTL headphone amps people are using.  I used a Auralic Taurus MkII for a couple years, and I'm currently using a Rogue Audio RH-5.  I'm considering moving on to a Moon 430HA.  Has anyone tried the 430HA and RH-5?  Are there other headphone amps in this price range that I should be considering?
cbl117
The Rupert Neve Precision headamp/ DAC blew me away at CanJam with its realism and overall natural sound. I also listened to many headphones with the DCS Bartok and it sounded very nice in all instances but there was just something special about the Precision.
I don't know if I'd call the HA 430 "TOTL", but I have one and it's fantastic.  The Sony TA-ZH1ES is also excellent.  I have no experience with the Rogue amp.  Others I've owned or own:

Hifiman EF6 (it's a beast!)
Auralic Taurus
Musical Fidelity M1 HPAP
Oppo HA-1
I agree, the Rupert Neve is a great amp.   Worth every penny.   I have had one for about 2 years.   It makes any phones sound great.   Unlikely a better amp than the Neve at it's price.  I would say it has the lowest noise floor of any component I've ever owned.   Only complaint is it is very unforgiving of poor source material. 

I just picked up the Quicksilver Headphone Amp and it is phenominal.    Is it worth $1000 ?   Yes, absolutely !!!    If you love tube amps and are looking for one that can drive any phone , it will not disappoint.
@oddiofyl  so I'm assuming that you prefer the quiksilver headphone amplifier over the Precision? What headphones were you using? I have the Arya and they like juice. You are definitely piquing my interest in the Quicksilver amp
I have to say, I really like the Neve.   It has 3.5mm, RCA,  and xlr/ trs combo inputs.   I have it connected directly to my DAC's balanced outs 25' away.    The Quicksilver is connected to my pre's tape out so all my sources appear at it's input.  

I am using Beyer DT911, an older phone that is 600 Ohm.  The Neve can drive them but not as loud and clean as the QS.    I was concerned the QS would struggle with low imp. phones but it drives my 32 Ohm Grado RS2e and Klipsch HP 3 with authority.   The manual  states 2w into 30 Ohm , 4 w max.....    The Quicksilver / HP 3 combo is awesome and the Grados sound better than they ever have.
Guys, I hope I don't come off as a snob and don't mean to belittle your gear. There are a lot of nice headphone amps available for under $1K and I'm sure some "punch above their weight", but I don't think the amps you're discussing are in the same league as those being discussed by the OP.
I’m the OP. Appreciate all the inputs. I think I’m going to stick with the Rogue Audio RH-5. It is really sounding amazing the longer I run it in. I’m pairing it with a Pass Labs XP-17 and it makes my vinyl sing! I’m getting hooked on the creature comforts too, such as remote standby, volume control, mute, and input selection. The 4 inputs include a balanced-in, which I’ve been using with the XP-17.

I’d love to eventually try the 430HA. I have a dedicated rack, so I am probably in the minority of folks looking for standard sized rack components (i.e. 17" width). The multiple inputs and remote control are requirements now, for me at least.
The 430HA is a great amp, very neutral with tons of power. Some characterize it as slow and boring. If your preference is for something more on the hyped up side, it might not be the best choice. I find it very easy to listen to, with great detail. The volume control is excellent, providing almost infinite control over volume settings. 
Big Greg,  no offense taken !    I assure you if you spent some time with either amp you would agree that they are superb performers.   Both made in USA by companies with serious audio roots.

You have a unique perspective,  you are a DIY guy who can build amps , but you also have some fine toys that are at the top of their class, so you probably see a lot of overpriced crap that just isn't worth the money.  That's part of the problem with the headphone category.  Lots of cheaply built cans and amps from China.  Many which are flavor of the week.

Are amps like the Manley and conrad -johnson worth their asking prices of $4500 and $7500 respectively?    I don't know and I'll probably never get to find out.     I think in every category you reach the point of diminishing returns, where is that with phones?  I don't know....

Neve must be having some success in the home arena or they wouldn't have re-cased the RNHP to look like a slick piece of home gear.... the amp is exactly the same inside, identical.  The new Fidelice RNHP goes for $1195.    That puts it $200 more than the Quicksilver which is clearly the better amp so they really didn't do their customers any favors.   They are targeting the home demographic now with case work.

So I will just say the Neve is great for the money,  maybe not TOTL , but it will crush a number of more expensive amps.  

The Quicksilver on the other hand is every bit of what I would expect in a top shelf amp.  It is built exactly like their amps.  In fact the chassis is like a 2/3 scale Mid Mono.  Same heavy gauge steel,  same beefy power transformer. Beautiful fit and finish  The only plastic on the entire case is the fuse holder and IEC receptacle.    It's a tank,  it weighs 16 lbs.   It sounds phenomenal and I would put it up against anything 2 maybe even 3 times the price.    

Happy listening
@oddiofyl  I'm glad to hear that.  I have some nice stuff, but it's mostly "mid-fi" and most of it I have purchased second hand.

First off, I'm not really a DIY person, I like to purchase fully realized products.  You may have me confused with someone else.

I have no doubt that I would enjoy listening to those amps.  Headphones amps (and a lot of the other gear we use to enjoy our hobby) don't have to cost a lot to be good. 

I recently sold my Musical Fidelity M1 HPAP headphone amp, which originally sold for $799.  It was class A and had a lot of power, two inputs, and sounded really good.  I'm sure the person I sold it to is enjoying it as much as I did.  If I would have had to sell all my other amps for some reason and only keep that one, it would have been only a minor "downgrade", more a loss of features than anything else.  I think it sounded as good or better than the Oppo HA-1 headphone amp I had.

I've moved on to some more expensive gear and it does sound better, but incrementally.  In most cases, there were features those pieces had that were also important in my purchasing decision when I decided to upgrade.

I don't think something like the Manley headphone amp is "worth it" for any practical reason.  I think much of what you're paying for is the look of it, which of course is hard to put a value on.  It's unique and would be something to show off if you're into that sort of thing.  I have a Manley Chinook phono stage and think it's a really nice piece, but there's nothing flashy about it and it was "affordable" for me.
@big_greg can you compare the AURALiC Taurus with the moon 430ha? I liked the Taurus but sold it chasing the dragon...from memory it had a clean, clear, and warmth to it. Never fatiguing. I’m wondering if the RH-5 is neutral-bright as I seem to get fatigue even at low listening levels. If the ha430 is similar to the Taurus, then that might be a better match for me.
I have the Woo Audio WA 33 with the upgraded tubes, and love it!  The Woo has plenty of power for virtually any headphone, with sufficient head room that results in a very enjoyable listening experience.  Although tube based, the highs are certainly presented well, as are the lowest notes.  Not surprisingly, the mods are fantastic.
@cbl117 Sorry, I missed your question.  I haven't used them both in the same system, so the sources were different.  I had the Taurus in my main system, which of course has my best components.

I found the 430HA to have more power and to be a little more detailed than the Taurus.  I think they were more alike than different in terms of the sound signature (both fairly neutral), but the 430HA has a lot more power and gives you more flexibility in terms of outputs with the rest of your system as well as remote control.  
@oddiofyl , Yesterday I acquired a Hegel Rost integrated amp. It has a headphone output. My Arya sounds wonderful on it with tremendously impactful, deep and tight bass, especially with electronic drum and bass and jungle. I’m amazed. I still need more time to test it on classical which comprises of most of my listening.

The Neve was on my radar but my gut tells me the build quality and sonics of the Quicksilver would suit my tastes better. I’m just hoping it will give the 41ohm Arya the drive and control it needs.  I know u mentioned something about the Quick silver driving your 32 ohm Grados nicely.

Still going well, I assume?



Yes , it drives my 25 Ohm Klipsch no problem.....    drives the Grados fine also.    This amp has balls !!!     The Neve is a fine amp but it is not in the same league.    The RNHP 's roots are in the studio, so it is clean, adds nothing...  it's great and it's unlikely I would sell it,  more likely I will leave it at my girlfriends house.

The QS is far more musical.... music just flows with layers of detail and natural timbre and decay ...  
Not a TOTL amp, but I saw the DARKVOICE 336SE OTL HEADPHONE AMP on MassDrop and looks very interesting. Never seen an OTL headphone amp before and I’m intrigued, especially at $200. Any thoughts?


Three noteworthy amps, from my experience:

Benchmark HPA4 - maximum transparency and detail, clinical in its precision 

Ampsandsound Bigger Ben - incredible musicality, a touch of warmth, lots of power

JDS Labs EL II - All-around solid performer at a budget price of $250

The Darkvoice 336SE OTL amp would be an interesting choice, haven't heard it but I imagine it'll have a distinct sound: alas, I've heard about quality control issues.