What headphone and amplifier for classical enthusiast


I’m thinking of headphones as an alternative to the stereo system I love because of complaints about the “constant noise” coming from my listening room. I know nothing about high end headphones or even how I’m going to connect to a CD or streaming source. My preamp doesn’t allow for headphones so I’ll need one, preferably tubed. And the cost of the cans should be in the neighborhood of $1000-$1500.
I understand headphones have unique characteristics. I listen mainly to classical music.
7c67ab18 c2ce 4b45 9523 fc4a71684ce0rvpiano
Ifi Pro iCan
https://ifi-audio.com/products/pro-ican/
2 tubes
Connected to the ´´ output 1 ´´ or ´´output 2 ´´ of your 
  • Conrad-Johnson PV11 Preamp
Headphones :  Focal Clear.
I like the Grado 1000 with the Grado amp. Very open and speaker like, but zero isolation, if that matters. The Grado amp is cheap, but it works well with the Grado phones. In your price range too. 
Choosing a headphones system is just like choosing a high end audio system.it requires effort and research. It ultimately requires a high quality streamer, amp, and headphones. I spent over ten years putting together… upgrading my system. You can see it by clicking on my user I’d. My current system has about 30% to the streamer (Aurender 100N), the amp 35% (Woo WA5) and headphones (1 pair, Sennheiser 800s). Unless you can afford much more I would recommend you get the best Focal head[hones you can afford.

The important thing is great electronics. So if you have a great CD player, then you need to heavily invest in an amp . I found the high end headphones (I have lots) I owned started to sound very similar when I put really good electronics behind them… which actually makes sense. You need massive, musical power to properly drive the Sennheiser. Focal are much easier to drive and are very natural sounding. Electrostatic and planar can sound great but you commit yourself to searching for just the right amp to power them.


Good luck. If you take anything from my post it is the proportions of cost per component. I much prefer tubes. Check out Woo.
@rvpiano Are you near Los Angeles. If so CanJam is going on in Irvine this weekend. The headphone to check out at the show is the offering from RAAL.-Requisite 

RAAL is coming out with a new ribbon based headphones that are different than the SR1a. The SR1a are like speakers attached to your ears. The RAAL SR1a are great for people who do not like headphones and are 2 channel people. My RAAL SR1a setup is as good as my floor stander setup.  The new models are like 'normal' headphones. I heard the new one yesterday and I think I will buy it in the future for when I listen in bed. However, the SR1a is still the cream of the crop for me.

True Ribbon Headphones & Amplifiers | RAAL-requisite (raalrequisite.com)  The web site does not list the new products yet.

RAAL also has a new tube based headphone amp that is very interesting. I was not able to hear it yesterday but it does look pretty cool with all the tubes. I am considering the new headphone amp for my bedroom. The HSA-1b solid state headphone amp for the SR1a is excellent and is the other amp I am considering for the bedroom. 

For my office, I use the KRELL K-300i integrated amp for the RAAL SR1a. I have also used a CODA #8, Benchmark AHB2, LSA Voyager 350 GAN, and a D-Sonic M3a 800s. They were all good and the best was the KRELL.
Yyzsantabarbara,

Unfortunately I’m on the other coast.
I own a Benchmark AHB2 amp.
  Can I use it with headphones?
No particular HP brand to recommend. I strongly suggest you try the open-back variety. More spacious, three dimensional sound.
Amps: Woo audio and Ray Samuels ( if he still builds `em).
@rvpiano,Here's a wonderful article about our friend, Rushton's similar journey to a headphone system. He's one of the most knowledgeable classical enthusiasts I have encountered. It might help with your process rather than just a specific product recommemdation. 
https://positive-feedback.com/audio-discourse/yes-there-really-is-music-after-vinyl/

Cheers, Spencer
when you review it, let me know
@rvpiano I bought the SR1a for my AB2 monos (great amps BTW). The SR1a designer in Serbia loved the AHB2 and used them to design the headphone. I was warned that the AHB2 would not work well with the SR1a by some people in the USA. However, I decided to go with the designers preference. The sound was not that good with the AHB2. The SR1a is a bright headphone and the AHB2's neutrality did not help. So some fatigue was evident.

However, I made it a mission this year to get the AHB2 to sound great. I did so with a few options. The final and best sound I had from the AHB2 + SR1a  was with the following:

- SR1a
- Gustard X26 Pro DAC
- CODA 07x preamp (thinking of selling now)
- AHB2 mono
- AccurateSound.ca CONVOLUTION FILE running on ROON Core. This filter was created by Mitch Barnett specifically for the SR1a. 

Taking the RAAL-requisite SR1a Headphones To Another Level - Reviews - Audiophile Style

The most important factor for this magic was the Convolution filter. With the filter, the Benchmark DAC3B also worked as well as the Gustard. I did not try it with any other preamps, but  warmish preamp would suffice.

I now use the KRELL K-300i integrated amp WITHOUT the Convolution filter. However, the KRELL is a very warm, smooth, and powerful amp and works great 'naked' with the SR1a. The AHB2 setup I had was close to being the best but it did not have as full bass (which the SR1a does not over emphasize) as the KRELL.

Send me a DM if you want to discuss this further. The next CanJam event is going to be in NYC. The RAAL-Requisite booth in the linked photo will be in NYC.
Hi RV it's Jim here, you may know that I only listen  to phones nowadays and totally love the experience. You can wake at 3am on a sleepless night and take yourself to heaven without waking anyone. The phones I have are Sennheiser HD 800 and they are supremely detailled and tonally correct (once fully run in). Headphone amps are a different matter of which I use the Luxman P 750u which is unfortunately very expensive but of all the head amps i Have listened and that is a lot it has consistently blown away all the others. The head amp is solid state but with a slight touch of warmth, all I have done is connect my PS audio DSD Dac and aural magic for hours on end. At the moment I am listening to Beatrice Rana's new Chopin recording and very fine it is (she is turning out to be very special indeed.). I hope you have luck in your quest. Jim204
@OP

I do not know if this is important to you , but the Pro iCan  comes with a remote,  but a simple one.
Thanks to all of you for your help.
I have to digest it all.
I’m a real novice in this field. I’m embarrassed to ask a very basic question. Besides the headphones and headphone amplifier, how do I connect with my sources (Cambridge streamer, Cyrus CD transport, Oppo player?)
With my speaker system I have a modified Conrad-Johnson PV 11 preamp, Benchmark DAT and amplifier.
Sorry to be so uninformed.
streamer / CD Player -> preamp (line out, an unused one) -> headphone amp -> headphones

I would guess your output 2 on the back of your Connie J is available to plug in the head amp.
I love my JBL Gumy earbuds for the best sound quality. Best quality too.
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As alluded to in previous posts, just as with traditional systems so much of this comes down to personal tastes/preferences and system synergy.  I’ll just throw out there that with classical music I prefer an open-backed headphone as it provides more of that “out-of-the-head” imaging that I find works well especially with larger-scale classical recordings.  Whether you’d prefer a dynamic driver, planar, etc, only you can decide as they each have their strengths, but if you want to use a tube HP amp I’d shy away from planar models.  

All that said, one combo that might be worth a look would be the Hifiman Arya planar ‘phones you can get open box from Hifiman for $1299 and the Singxer SA-1 Class-A amp for $599 that, while not tubes, could provide some similar qualities.  The Quicksilver headphone amp is a tube amp that might have the juice for the Aryas but would be a little more pricey.  Just some other options to consider FWIW, and best of luck.