Which headphone amplifier with balanced input?

Glad there is this forum. I am going to own a Meridian 508.24 CD player soon. I have noticed it's balanced output and would like to take advantage of them. In the emantime I would like to purchase a headphone amplifier ($150-450) but have really no clue which one is a great value for the money with balanced inputs. But maybe I should settle for unbalanced since reviews of headroom of Creek amplifiers have been raving reviews.

I have the Grace 901 headphone amp which includes balanced inputs, but it's beyond your budget. I think there are a few Headroom amps that include balanced inputs, but same price issue. I wouldn't worry too much about making sure it has balanced inputs.

Also, there are many amps available in your price range. I would go to Head-fi.org for suggestions. If you can swing it, the new Emmeline XP-7 headphone amp is supposed to be great ($495, also available with a power supply for $695).
I would post this question on www.head-fi.org. I was in need of a headphone amp and I learned quite a bit from this wonderful web-site. After I read and learned, I decided to order from www. jmtaudio.com a Meta-42 based home headphone amp. Links on Jon's web-site will direct you to other builders as well. Good luck w/your search.
2 agreements: head-fi.org (also check out headwize.com), and the XP-7 from www.raysamuelsaudio.com

I got it. It is superb ! Balanced, organic (NEVER thought I'd use that term) sound, detail galore, even some good in-skull soundstaging !

OK, single-ended only, but you don't need balanced with this baby.
Hey, it's nice to see all of the referrals to head-fi, which is definitely the best place to ask this sort of question but it's always nice to hear from the Audiogon crowd on headphone-related matters as well.

Depending on your budget, I wholeheartedly agree with the XP-7 recommendation. It's hard to believe that this is a $495 headamp because the soundstaging it produces in awe inspiring - and it's a small portable headamp! I just got mine this past weekend so I'm still in the honeymoon stages with it, but it's leagues ahead of my Creek OBH-11SE or Antique Sound Labs MG Head. My first impressions are that the XP-7 may just compare favorably with well respected headamps in a slightly higher price category such as the David Berning micro ZOTL or the Sugden Headmaster, but I have not done any A/B comparisons yet. Ray Samuels is a great person to work with as well (as is David Berning).

As another suggestion, a head-fi member named Mikhail also produces some excellent tube amps in all price ranges that are a great bang for the buck. The company name is Single Power Audio, and I'm sure he could include balanced inputs in the design if you so require.
Thanks guys for the very informative replies!

But what about this one: Sugden HeadMaster Headphone Amp?

This seems to be a state of the art headphone amplifier with raving reviews...

IMO, the Sugden Headmaster is an excellent solid state headamp (very quick, precise, and detailed) with an absolutely beautiful finish and outstanding build quality, but it's a bit on the expensive side if you buy it new. It mates particularly well with the Grado HP-1000 series headphones as well as the AKG K-1000 earspeakers. Check with Carlo (his username) at head-fi.org concerning the mods that he does for the Headmaster that are reputed to be an outstanding value and bring the amp up several notches in the foodchain. My Headmaster is unmodified but I'm definitely considering the possibliity of having Carlo do his magic.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Ray Samuels XP-7 would be an excellent buy (the company name is Emmeline Audio). Also, the SinglePower Audio products from Mikhail (another head-fi username) are "bang for the buck" headamp champs. I don't mean to be repeating myself, but these DIY bargains should not be overlooked. One last option would be the Perreaux SXH1 for $349 from Audio Advisor. This is another headamp that has received a lot of attantion and great reviews of late at head-fi.

Good luck.
I just checked out some of the above sites. Thank you!
Wmcmanus: hope you're enjoying your XP-7's. And thanks for the pointer on Mikhail. Just a couple notes:

It's raysamuelsaudio.com, Emmeline is the "major" model name (?). I LOVE mine, and I'm even past the honeymoon stage.

I also picked up the Perraux SHX-1 from Audio Advisor. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the Ray Samuels, but I want to save up for that or Ray's HR-2 and perhaps replace the SHX-1. The Perraux is very good, don't get me wrong. But it's not in the XP-7's league (and it's 50% less, so well it shouldn't be).

I'll play with it some more, I have enjoyed using it with the Sennheiser 580's (which can be a little fuller sounding). But perhaps you'll see the Perraux up for sale here sometime :-)

FYI, regarding the Sugden. I haven't heard it, but I bought my Cardas Sennheiser replacement cable from a nice gent who also sold his Sugden. He liked it a lot, but went with a small tube amp and the AKG K1000's. He only had great praise for the Sugden, though. I'd love to compare it to the Ray Samuels someday.


Todd - chams_uk
I just run my HD600s right off the RCAs of my EMC-1 SE! Seems the output is just right, although a bit loud on pop stuff. OTOH I rarely listen to the cans...mostly for discriminating PC changes rather than music listening, but I wonder how the Meridian drives your cans directly?
The EMC-1 has 2.4v out RCA, and of course more balanced, the HD600 600 ohm input impedence.