Woo Audio WA 22 Headphone Amplifier (Playback 43)

Headphone amps and amp/DACs
Woo Audio WA 22 Headphone Amplifier
Woo Audio WA 22 Headphone Amplifier (Playback 43)

potential limitations of headphone-based systems; namely, the fact that you can’t compensate for problems by tweaking room-related variables as you can with speaker-based audio systems (for example, there really are no headphone equivalents for changing speaker placement within the listening room, or for applying room surface treatments or resonance control devices). But two things you can control are the electronics and signal cables you will use in powering your headphones. Since those are essentially the only variables at your fingertips, it becomes easy to understand the heightened role the amplifier plays in any headphone-based system.

Which leads to a final distinctive point about headphone audiophilia. Experienced headphone listeners are often more at peace than traditional audiophiles are with the idea of using components with offsetting and complementary strengths to achieve optimal sound (perhaps the sonic equivalent of the notion that “two wrongs can make a right”). I find that many traditional audiophiles want to believe that each piece of equipment in their systems is very close to perfect. As a result, their mental model for improving music reproduction then involves reducing small, residual system imperfections one-by-one, but with a somewhat Wizard-of-Oz-like denial that error compensation and synergy is part of the package.

Headphone aficionados, on the other hand, are somewhat more willing to mix-and-match complementary components with an eye toward achieving a well-balanced result. Thus, one might hear a headphone enthusiast say something like this: “the Sennheiser HD 800 has an upper mid-range dip which is nicely enlivened by the Meier Corda HA-2.” I think this philosophical difference is helped along by two factors. First, because the room is removed from the

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