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Little Dot Mk2 vs Rega Ear Mk2 - experiences and 'phone constraints?

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Super Wammer

I rarely listen to headphones; both the cable and the phones tend to make me feel a little constrained. But can't quite let the idea go entirely...

In Kendal, since moving to the Sugden I have no headphone socket. Being a completist, I either have to get myself a cost-effective (=cheap) headphone amp or sell the 'phones! Let's focus on the first.

Aesthetics and space demand something small and predominantly black. Sonically, I think a tube stage might complement the rather "honest" Grados but the necessity of impedance matching puts me off. Still, the two I have my eye are a used (safer, simpler choice) Rega Ear MkII or a more adventurous Little Dot Mk2.

The question about headphone choice is because I want to know which other phones I might not be able to consider in future if I went for the Little Dot. I've been drawn by personal and published reviews to for example the Oppo PM-2 and the Focal eLear and it would be good to know if these or similar would work with the Little Dot (I presume the Ear can handle anything).

Would welcome your experiences and views of either or both headphone amps

No rush as I'm not allowed to go there for a while!

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I've tried quite a few headphone amps Nigel and its like anything they all sound different and it depends on what you want. For me personally I really get the tubes thing when using headphones, more so than speakers perahps. As you are really close listening through headphones a lot of the things that are important to me with speakers like good power and drive are not so much of a concern. What I find with tubes is that they do give more of a sense of space, 3d and ethereal sound. Thats why I really like using them with headphones. I have a little dot mkII here and for what they cost I think they are pretty amazing. I also have a little box of valves that I can swap around but for me the best overall has been this little kit. 

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/272561097667

But I have others here which change it tonally in differing directions, like make it warmer or whatever. Theres also some jumper links inside which changes the output of it for hard to drive headphones. But I used it on the lowest with HD650s and I still thought there was enough of headroom on it.

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Super Wammer
1 hour ago, eddie-baby said:

I've tried quite a few headphone amps Nigel and its like anything they all sound different and it depends on what you want. For me personally I really get the tubes thing when using headphones, more so than speakers perahps. As you are really close listening through headphones a lot of the things that are important to me with speakers like good power and drive are not so much of a concern. What I find with tubes is that they do give more of a sense of space, 3d and ethereal sound. Thats why I really like using them with headphones. I have a little dot mkII here and for what they cost I think they are pretty amazing. I also have a little box of valves that I can swap around but for me the best overall has been this little kit. 

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/272561097667

But I have others here which change it tonally in differing directions, like make it warmer or whatever. Theres also some jumper links inside which changes the output of it for hard to drive headphones. But I used it on the lowest with HD650s and I still thought there was enough of headroom on it.

Great stuff Eddie.

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I briefly owned a Rega Ear MK1 and I was quite impressed I have to say. I've owned a Little Dot MK3, 4 and 4SE and I still thought it was good in comparison. Don't get me wrong, not better but it more than held its own given the price.

Eddie is right about the advantages of the valves, but there was something about the warmth and tonal balance of the Rega that was quite comforting and I would have been happy with it if it was all I had.

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Super Wammer
26 minutes ago, Lawrence001 said:

I briefly owned a Rega Ear MK1 and I was quite impressed I have to say. I've owned a Little Dot MK3, 4 and 4SE and I still thought it was good in comparison. Don't get me wrong, not better but it more than held its own given the price.

Eddie is right about the advantages of the valves, but there was something about the warmth and tonal balance of the Rega that was quite comforting and I would have been happy with it if it was all I had.

Great stuff, Lawrence

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I've got an Arcam rHead. It sounds good, really bought it for work rather than music, I do find though when really pushed on volume it gets a tad harsh with Senn HD6xx.

The headphone amp section of my NAD C368 isn't as dynamic at lower volumes but can be really pushed loud without any gripes on the HD6xx.

On a crazy leap of faith, having always wanted to try valves, I bought a Feliks Audio Echo. It's yet to arrive... Might be worth investigating though perhaps more expensive?

Had a Creek headphone amp years back that I found clean but kind of thin. To be fair these days I always eq either via streaming app or a Schiit Loki so the Creek may have sounded better to me with eq.

Also got a Bravo V3, huge amount of gain and built in bass / mid / treble eq. Fun. Doesn't compare with the Arcam or NAD head amps.

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Ha just seen views on Little Dot or Rega requested, sorry! Still it may offer some insight.

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Super Wammer
17 hours ago, Headcoat said:

Ha just seen views on Little Dot or Rega requested, sorry! Still it may offer some insight.

Crikey, that's a first: a wammer constrained by the topic!

Thank you for your contribution, sir.

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