JRC 4556 opamp.

Image: Wikimedia.org

What does Burr-Brown, JRC and Grado have in common?

The Grado RA1 headphone amplifier, beautiful enclosure and sound until someone discovered that it uses a JRC 4556 opamp in a circuit similar with the popular Cmoy.
Fanboys went nuts…an expensive headphone amplifier that uses a cheap opamp!? No way! We shall upgrade it to an Burr-Brown and without decent testing say it sounds better because the chip is way more expensive…Oh! Boy…The Burr-Brown cult still goes on even if the company is now owned by TI.

I’m no specialist but I’m sure Grado Labs had reasons to use a JRC in their RA1, one can compare it to a cmoy amp but also remember that JRC are used in many consumer products not just because they are cheap but because they are TRUE chips for headphone amplifiers! Burr-Browns used in cmoys have different aplications just look at their spec sheets and you’ll understand what I’m saying.

I have nothing against Burr-Brown chips and in fact I have some in my stock that were still made by BB, I also have JRCs that are literally in the same bag.
What I don’t like is the fact that some people say they sound better without proper testing just because they are more expensive than JRC chips.

I understand that it might suck having a cheap opamp in an expensive product but it happens a lot in consumer products. Thats why there is DIY but always remember that most stuff is inspired by consumer products.
In a perfect audio consumer world we would have ALPS pots, Neutrik jacks, Wima caps, silver wiring, etc. In DIY and High-End products we can have that but in product made for profit things don’t go there.

One also must respect companies like Grado that always try to make better products in a very competitive market.