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Massdrop 101: What Is An Amp?
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The market demands - today people are willing to drop BIG bucks based on other people's stories on what you should expect to hear and forming big expectations (buy first, audition, then buy again). The suppliers are just jumping onto the demand train to cash in. Hopefully this gets reinvested for some real innovation.
Stax, HD800, headamps, etc used to cost a 'fortune' back in 2006. Now they are "average priced" compared to the Other top of line. People seem very ready to drop 2 to 3 grand on a totl headphone, then another 2 grand on a portable DAC and amp.
There's a lot of variety out there and a lot of schnake oil.
To answer your question is nothing has changed other than the current flavor of the month. It's still just solid state, tubes, transistors, transformers, class a b ab d t, planars, dynamics, hybrids of the above. The wheel hasn't been reinvented yet. The playing field is just a lot bigger.
Here's some designs from the past that I'm waiting to see recycled as "breakthrough new technology". This is exciting times.
Tube + class d hybrid otl... wait it's already here
Akg340 - hybrid planar dynamic headphones
Black Diamond HA - transformer coupled solid state amp