Headphone Amps!

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by meltsakana, Mar 22, 2004.

  1. meltsakana


    Sep 3, 2002
    Hey everyone,
    I searched and I couldn't find much information about this, so here I am. I'm looking to get a headphone amp, and I'm curious as to what the best kind is. What do you guys use? I've really only considered the Raven Labs headphone amp, because of its secondary use as a preamp.

    Any comments?
  2. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    I did a review for the TASCAM CD-BT1. Look it up under gear reviews. http://www.talkbass.com/reviews/showproduct.php?product=11&sort=7&cat=15&page=1

    It works as good as any headphone amp in that application, with the bonus of a built in variable speed CD player, line in/out, effects, eq, etc.

    If I were to get any other headphone amp it would be the Fodera parctice amp only because it has the same pre as the 2000 with the Pope mobile (except it's got no Mid, just BT).
  3. I bought a Raven Headphone Amp about a year ago. The amp is super quiet - no hiss and is plenty loud! The EQ is all one really needs to tweak your tone to 'sit in' the mix. The build quality is excellent. I use it for nearly all my practicing which my family greatly appreciates. I use it either 'solo', with a CD player or a metronome. The stereo mix function works great in the latter two applications. I'm keeping my eyes open for a good deal on a drum machine. I am confident a drum machine with the Raven will be a great practice set-up.

    The headphones it comes with are only OK. I have a couple of pairs of Sony 'monitor' headphones which are much nicer. Would recommend getting better headphones ASAP if you purchase the unit.

    My EA i500 also has a headphone output. It doesn't even come close to the sound quality of the Raven. EA acknowledge that the headphone outputs on thier amps are less than ideal.

    I haven't tried the TASCAM unit. I saw one in a local music store and thought it looked cheaply made. It might sound OK and have some good features but the Raven will be around much longer.
  4. jobu3

    jobu3 Artist formerly known as Big Joe

    Feb 17, 2002
    Mountain Top, PA
    I have one and what sets it apart from other headphone amps that I've seen is the fact that you can use two pairs of headphones at once with it. You can practice with your guitarist silently... That alone makes it better than buying some $50 model or a supplementary mixer IMO. Not to mention that the tone is sweet and clean!

  5. craigb

    craigb Supporting Member

    I've had 3 headphone amps (all had aux inputs - without being able to play along with an input I don't see the point):

    Dunlop Bass Ace - Has treble & mid boost. All basses sound similar through it - you get an overdriven kind of thing going which, while it makes them all sound similar, sounds decent if you like that kind of thing (I do). I've still got it because it's cheap and I do most of my practicing through a headphone amp and even when I've had others it's not worth selling it.

    Raven Labs PHA-1 - nice. Super clean. In fact, it's brutal. It tells you 100% exactly what your bass sounds like and what your playing sounds like. Sloppy technique? You're gonna hear it loud and clear. Any warts on the bass sound? You're gonna hear 'em all, right up front. I found it to be a little bit dry when trying it as a preamp. But I felt I heard the exact sound of my bass (and how they sound going direct) through it. Perfect for doing bass tweaks/adjustements. I want another someday.

    Behringer V-amp - not bad. It was easy to get some nasty digital distortion with my high output basses (G&Ls & Godin A4). I only liked a couple of the amp models and thought the effects were kind of weak. In the end I just didn't like it enough to keep.

    I've heard good things about the Cafe Walter headphone amp (but no AC adapter possible, kills it for me) and the Korg Pandora.
  6. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    I still use my original Scholz Bass Rockman. In fact, I just picked up another one. These units can be noisy, but I have found mine to be relatively quiet. I love the sound of my Mark Hoppus Precision through it!
  7. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    ...Just seconding craig's opinion. The Raven pre is one of the few indispensible pieces of gear that I own. Fantastic sound, great mix with an aux source, it has a good line out and can also run an effects loop by using the aux out and the aux return... Steve Rabe makes some great gear. I have used a MDB and a TBEQ and they were both just as well made and quiet.

    If I needed a CD headphone practice rig that fit into a gigbag pocket I would look at the Tascam, and if I didn't want to spend the $$ for the Raven but wanted the same sound quality I'd go with the Cafe Walter. I still have a Bass Rockman, and it isn't too bad and can be found really cheap used. Back in "the day" I had a pair of the original Scholz units and sold them in a fit of insanity.
  8. Lockout


    Dec 24, 2002
    A little off-topic, but does anyone know of something I could buy that I could plug either the DI out or the 1/4" output of my Aguilar preamp into that could drive a pair of headphones? I'm surprised it doesn't have a headphone jack built into it, since it seems to have everything else I could possibly need.

    The PHA-1 would probably work but I don't think I'd like to spend that much on something that will be doing so little. ;)

    Any ideas?
  9. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Get powered headphones. I think Bose has some. Pretty easy to find cheap ones at WalMart too.
  10. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I also have the BT1 and I love it for practice. It might be overkill just as a headphone amp, but it does so much more that it is worth it. Plus, there is a perverse pleasure in cranking up the funk wah and playing along to Crazy Train :D
  11. metron

    metron Fluffy does not agree

    Sep 12, 2003
    Lakewood Colorado
    Im going to order a Raven PHA-1 this afternoon probably. I just wanted to add that I highly recommend Raven stuff. I use a Raven PMB and it is one of my favorite pieces of gear. These little boxes Steve makes are fantastic!!
  12. Lockout


    Dec 24, 2002
    The problem with that is I already have a somewhat nice set of headphones, so I'd rather not have to buy new ones.

    And even if I did, I would probably still need something between the preamp and the headphones, because the preamp has a mono output jack that will only send a signal into one of the headphone speakers...

    Any other ideas?
  13. craigb

    craigb Supporting Member

    There are a lot of options - what are you willing to spend? If I go to MF and search on "headphone amp" I find stuff ranging from ~$40 and up. There's a lot that is cheaper than a PHA-1, although it's probably not as good. A cheap mixer might get the job done (particularly since you are running through a preamp already) and let you do other things. There are amps that have multiple outputs if you want to jam with others (there are even some of that let each channel act as a "more me" kind of thing although you've got to have a board where they are all mixed together and sent back to the monitor in).

    What options do you want/need? mix with a stereo signal, multiple outputs, etc. How much are you willing to spend? Less than a PHA-1 is still a broad range - how much less? And what sound quality are you willing to accept? If you are buying new you might want to take your stuff down to your local shop and try out the options with your gear to make sure you can live with how it sounds.

    There's a lot of choices
  14. metron

    metron Fluffy does not agree

    Sep 12, 2003
    Lakewood Colorado
    This works if you have a DI and a stereo component with a headphone monitor and RCA inputs.

    Plug into the DI, use a 1/4 stereo to RCA cable (about $5 at Radio Shack) to run into the stereo component (I used a tape deck) and monitor it through headphones. The best part of that setup with a tape deck is that you can record your practice sessions. The quality of the sound depends mostly on your DI. I used a Countryman and it sounded quite nice!!! You could also use a pre out on your bass amp or preamp output if you have one.
  15. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    A Korg Toneworks Pandora PX4B or a PX3B can actually make you a better bassist. Most of these other units just let you hear yourself.

    To mention just a few of the functions included in a Korg Toneworks Pandora -

    > You can play along with recordings on your stereo. If the key the song is being played in is different from your tuning, you can change it. If the speed of the riffs is too fast, you can slow them down

    > You get more effects from amp types to delay timing than you can imagine

    > It offers drum patterns from all genres of music that sound so realistic, you can't tell them from a real drummer

    > It has an adjustable tuning function

    > You can record/playback your bass riffs to see how tight your playing is

    Moreover, a lot of peoiple are dumping their the PX3-B's, (the model I have) in favor of the PX4B's.........so you can pick one up quite inexpensilvely.

    These things are not expensive, unless you compare them to the crappy plastic headphone amps with no versatility like Dunlops.
  16. grovest


    Feb 26, 2002
    I use a Behringer UB502 mixer for a headphone amp. It works very well and I can mix in CDs, radio or MP3s along with my playing. The price was under $40.
  17. Lockout


    Dec 24, 2002
    Y'know...originally I was just looking for some way to run the signal from my pre directly into a pair of headphones. But now I'm really starting to like some of the PHA-1's features, specifically the mix input and the ability to run on batteries when needed. Maybe it would be a worthwhile purchase.

    I have a few questions, though:

    1) Will I still be able to run my preamp output into the inputs on the PHA-1 without hurting it?

    2) If I had an external music player or something connected to the Mix In, would the line out on the back be able to send the mixed signal? Or just the signal from the front inputs?

    3) Do any of you ever run your PHA-1's in front of your preamp? Did it seem to improve the sound at all? I read the description of it on the Raven Labs site, and it mentioned something about this, but I was a little doubtful of whether it would actually make a difference in sound. Does it?
  18. Tim__x


    Aug 13, 2002
    Alberta, Canada
  19. craigb

    craigb Supporting Member

    Sure, no problem there.

    The line out has the mixed signal - that's why you can use it as a side chain effects loop. There's a lot of possibilities there (bringing in a monitor mix and adjusting your level relative to it, etc.).

    I never tried that. I did try it as a standalone preamp and didn't like it that well (too dry for my taste). I think that it would provide the most benefit for a passive bass (or unbuffered piezo) where it could act in the same way as the preamp in an active bass.

    For what you want a small mixer might do the job as well and be a bunch cheaper (and I've seen some that can run on batteries as well). A mixer wouldn't have bass-centric EQ like the PHA-1 but since you want to use your Aguilar anyway you don't need that. Hmmm . . . I'm going to have to try using my cheap little mixer as a headphone amp again and see how it does (IIRC last time I wasn't that happy with the sound and output level - but I run the bass directly into it).