Headphone amplifiers for watching TV

Q. I read your article about wireless surround sound and believe it may be possible to adapt your solution to solve my problem. I use headphones when I watch TV, and if I have my headset plugged into the headphone jack on the front of my receiver, the sound coming from the speakers shuts off, and my wife can’t hear it. Both the TV and the receiver have preamp outputs that are not being used. Could I use the Dayton Audio DTA-1 amplifier and connect it directly to the preamp outputs on the receiver? Do you have a better solution at a reasonable cost?

J.B., Milwaukee

A. Your reasoning is correct, but you cannot use the Dayton Audio DTA-1 to drive your headphones as it does not have a headphone output. You can get a dedicated headphone amplifier and connect it to the preamp outputs either by using the wireless solution I described or by running a long cable from the preamp outputs to the headphone amplifier input. The volume on your headphones will change when your wife changes volume on the receiver, but the headphone amplifier will have its own volume adjustment you can use to balance it out when she does make changes. Just have her warn you before she turns up the volume so you can make adjustments as she does, lest you be treated to some very loud and possibly distorted sound.

Headphone amplifiers range from under $100 to over $1,000 for high-end models used by audiophiles with expensive headphones. The $89 Dayton Audio DAT-100 would be a good choice for you as it includes an AC power supply and has ordinary RCA inputs for easy connection to your preamp outputs or wireless box. Another mini amplifier to consider is the Topping TP21 Class T Digital Mini Amplifier, which sells for about $85 online.

If headphones are your main mode of listening or you own a set of high-end headphones, you may want to give a better headphone amplifier a try. The HiFiman line of vacuum tube headphone amplifiers has been favorably received by audiophiles and worth a look. The $169 HiFiman EF2A is a particularly good value as it has high quality digital-to-analog conversion chips and a USB port for direct connection to a computer. It also has RCA inputs for use with any other component. I would recommend such an amplifier only if you have a high quality set of headphones. It would be overkill to use it with a pair of earbuds that came with an iPod.

As this week’s topic is headphone amplifiers and headphones, I have an opportunity to mention some super headphones that deserve recognition. The Audio-Technica ATH-M35 is one of the best values in audio. They are comfortable to wear and produce wonderfully satisfying sound that is rich, clear and natural. They list for $119 but can readily be found online for $55. After years of experience testing headphones, I was conditioned to expect anything under $75 to sound passable at best, or even possibly not be as good as the iPod earbuds. When I first tried the ATH-M35, I was flabbergasted at how good they sounded and found myself looking for excuses to listen to them. Great stuff!

Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com and use the “submit question” link on that site.

2012 McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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