Buying a set of audiophile grade headphones is only a part of the process. Simply plugging these into an everyday amplifier is not going to reap the best results, therefore you need to be looking to purchase a dedicated high quality headphone amplifier.
There is nothing worse that reading a review of a high end pair of headphones and not knowing the rest of the system. Some dedicated hi fi magazines frequently fail to even mention partnering equipment during reviews, so it can be difficult to weigh various pros and cons.
I have several headphone amplifiers at home, but I found that the Grado GS1000i works great with the Graham Slee Solo SRG II unit.
The Graham Slee Solo SRGII is one of the finest headphone amplifiers on the market.
It really only comes to life when you buy the upgraded power supply, which is dubbed the ‘PSU1’. This Power Supply isn’t cheap however and costs around £170, although many dealers sell this as a ‘matched’ pair for around £510 inc vat. The Solo can drive almost any headphone and bring out hidden dynamic detail and ambient imaging that very few loudspeaker systems can match. The Solo has no treble or bass controls, it is a pure, straight through amplifier that will deliver the truest sound. If £510 is too much then The Solo SRG Intro, without the PSU1, retails for around £400.
There are two inputs on the back of the Solo amplifier which allow connection of two sources without having to reconnect frequently. The Solo can even drive two pairs of headphones with the use of a ‘Y-Cable’.
- Headphone impedance: 20 to 600 Ohms
- Maximum output: +14dB*
- Distortion THD: 0.15% (onset of clipping)* 0.01% (+10dB out)*
- Frequency response (half power): 12Hz (-0.5dB) to 100kHz (-3dB)
- Frequency response (max power): 12Hz (-0.5dB) t0 150kHz (-1.5dB)
- Signal to noise ratio: 89dB
- Input sensitivity: 125mV rms
- Short circuit duration: Continuous
- Power output into 600 Ohms: 25mW rms (+14dB SPL)
- Power output into 32 Ohms: 30mW rms (+15dB SPL)
- Phono connectors: Heavy Gold Plated/teflon insulated
- Mains Voltage UK: 200-250V ac 50/60Hz
- Size (approx.): 116 (W) 175 (D) x 49 (H) inc feet
The Roksan Kandy K2 CD Player will be used for this review, it is, in my opinion one of the finest CD players under £1000 and as it is a British make, it earns bonus points. When it was released it cost around £900, but has recently seen some reductions to around £750. Many argue that the Cyrus CD 6 SE is a better player, however I personally find it a little fatiguing when used with Grado due to the slight ‘over brightness’.
The Kandy K2 might not appeal to everyone due to the quirky looks, but internally it is pretty much as good as it gets in this price range. Roksan have changed the CD mechanism, they improved the power supply stages and noise isolation and revamped the master clock circuitry for even more stability. In real world terms it means this player is capable of resolving a massive amount of detail, especially with complex classical arrangements. It is refined, sweet, emotive and enjoyable over long listening durations.
I am using a pair of AudioQuest Sidewinder interconnects between the CD player and Headphone amplifier.