Desktop/Cubicle amplifier with at least 3 inputs.
April 28, 2011 4:15 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to find a desktop or office cubicle ( by which I mean pretty small and elegant) compatible amplifier. I just really need a headphone amplifier since I wont ever be able use any speakers at work, but I must be able to select between 3 different sources.

I am trying to find a desktop or office cubicle ( by which I mean pretty small and elegant) compatible amplifier. I just really need a headphone amplifier since I wont ever be able use any speakers at work.

Now the difficulty is that I have at least 3 sources of audio in various places on my desk and I need the device to allow me to at least select between 3 different sources. One of the inputs could very well be a usb connection. Another input could be an iPod dock.

Points are given for smallish elegance.

I would also like this device to not cost more than $150.. preferably less.

Things I have seen: they have a couple of products I think would work
but they are too expensive, some of them by far.
Nu Force: too expensive and seem to lack two analog inputs.

AudioEngine: seems to lack the inputs,and a bit expensive.

So does anyone have recommendations?
I believe there must be other cubicle dwellers out there
who are facing the same issue.
posted by digividal to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: The Yamaha TSX-140 looses a couple of points for being big and bulky, and I dont really need the built in speakers but aside from that it pretty much does everything, but its twice as expensive as I wanted.
posted by digividal at 4:41 PM on April 28, 2011

I think your requirements of three inputs, a decent headphone amp, and under $150 can be met with a single product.

How about going with a small Mixer (i.e. Behringer MicroMix MX400 orART Pro Audio MacroMix or Samson S-mix) and a musician's headphone amp (i.e. Behringer MicroAmp HA400 or Art Pro Audio HeadAmp4 or Samson S-Amp). Total cost including new cables from Monoprice should be under $150.

Not under $150, but I love my Parasound zpre2 as a headphone amp. You can get b-stock ones for $300 from Audio Advisor

Some computer speakers have pretty decent headphone amp implementations. Many have appalling ones though.
posted by fief at 5:40 PM on April 28, 2011

How much do you care about the sound quality? The reason I ask is I'm certainly no audiophile type guy, but the headphone amps I own vary dramatically in sound quality.

I would not get something like the Behringer devices fief is recommending, for instance, to listen to music on. I have a Behringer headphone distribution amp and it sounds like shit. I mean, its worth having, because if you are just trying to distribute enough sound that people can play instruments it works fine, but I would never listen to music on it while I was working.

In your price range, I have something called a "Total Bithead". It doesn't really fit your exact requirements, but it sounds really good and its really small. It can run off USB and it has 1/8" analog inputs. It's also an outboard DAC. It really blows away onboard computer outputs, and it can drive higher-impedance headphones than most other headphone outputs.

I only bought the Total Bithead because I had a Thinkpad that had a really wonky headphone output, and I had already gone multiple rounds with IBM/Lenovo trying to get other things fixed on it, so I figured I'd just have to live with the terrible headphone output. It was not just noise, there was some sort of high-pitched whine and also that laptop white screen/scroll noise. It sounds a million times better. I think I actually bought a refurb one so it was even cheaper, and seemed brand-new. I even like the switch that feeds a little audio from either side into the other side, especially for those extreme separation mixes that sound crazy on headphones.

Anyway, the thing that it lacks from your specs is there is no input-switching functionality of any kind. If I was you, I'd get a good, small headphone amp, and then I'd just buy some sort of switch. Actually, what I would really do is ziptie the output cords in place and switch them by hand, but it sounds like you want the switch. This is the first google result for '1/8" stereo cable switch', I'm sure there are alternatives, probably cheaper or with more inputs.
posted by jeb at 12:49 PM on April 29, 2011

Response by poster: Hi jeb,

I have a total airhead that I use when I am travelling. Its a great little unit,
but I would have preferred something closer to what I am looking for.

I am surprised that I cannot find a little amp with a few inputs that is small.

It is dead easy to find one that in living room size.
posted by digividal at 1:29 PM on April 29, 2011

You know, have you considered any of those "monitor controllers" that are intended for studios? The idea is that since computer-based studios are less likely to have real mixing desks these days, they sell these gadgets sit on your desk and let you route different sources to different sets of monitors. The Mackie Big Knob is the kind of thing I'm thinking of, but there are a lot of different ones. Any of these things will be overkill, and the BK is also double your price range, but there might be a less featureful alternative that is cheaper and still hits your required features. Something like the SMAudio M-Patch 2 (only two inputs), or the JBL MSC1, for instance. Actually the JBL has headphone out, USB, 3 switchable ins, and is pretty small, but it's $200.

I don't know, might not come up when you search for "amplifier" or think about amps, because, well, they're not amps, but they might hit the spot for you.
posted by jeb at 2:35 PM on April 29, 2011

Response by poster: jeb: This is very interesting. I am completely unaware of this category of product.
I wil l have to read more about it.
posted by digividal at 5:00 PM on April 29, 2011

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