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Starving Student II Headphone Amplifier

  • 22900


UPDATE OCT 16th 2019: Tube rolling kit now available sold out

  • The tube rolling kit consists of a random selection of 4 pairs of 18FX6 and/or 18FX6A tubes
  • The brands shown in the photo are typical, but not guaranteed
  • Maximum 2 per SSII customer


We're happy to announce the immediate availability of this new collaboration between Pete Millett and diyAudio, an updated version of the classic Starving Student.

The Starving Student II is a hybrid tube/solid state headphone amplifier and pre-amplifier. 48VDC is fed via in from a high quality universal-voltage Meanwell power adapter. It has dual RCA inputs, with a 1/4” jack for headphones and another pair of RCA outputs for use as a pre-amplifier.

BOM and schematics are inside Pete's excellent SSII assembly instructions. 6L6 has prepared a beautiful SSII step-by-step build guide. The SSII information directory contains links to every SSII resource.

Both the parts kit and chassis will ship immediately from our US warehouse at the same time. You can ask questions and discuss your build in the SSII discussion thread on diyAudio.


  • New and improved redesign of the classic Starving Student by tube guru Pete Millett
  • Detailed step-by-step SSII build guide from 6L6
  • Can be used as a headphone amplifier or pre-amplifier
  • Includes two 18FX6 vacuum tubes, functioning as triodes
  • Choice of resistor or CCS plate loading for preferentially lower distortion or softer clipping, using a blue LED to bias CCS and light the tubes
  • Time delay muting circuit to allow the tubes to warm up
  • Just $119 each for either the parts kit or chassis, and $229 as a bundle


Spec Plate load 150 ohm load 30 ohm load
Gain (at max volme setting) CCS 20 dB 18 dB
Resistor 17 dB 16 dB
Frequency response +/-3dB CCS 11Hz - 40kHz 18Hz - 40kHz
Resistor 12Hz - 50kHz 20Hz - 50kHz
Frequency response 20Hz-20kHz CCS +/- 0.8dB +/- 1dB
Resistor +/- 0.8dB +/- 1dB
THD+N 1V 1kHz CCS 0.47 % 0.15 %
Resistor 1.8 % 1.3 %
Maximum output @ 5% THD CCS 9.9 V RMS 2.5 V RMS
Resistor 3.1 V RMS 2.4 V RMS


We also have available a zip archive containing 12 different SSII graphs.

Customer Reviews

Based on 29 reviews
Excellent kit

This was my first DIY Audio kit and I am really glad I started with this one. The excellent build guide from 6L6 makes assembly easy. Having all needed parts and the chassis in one kit guarantees success in completing the project. The case was a little bit finicky to assemble, but all parts came together nicely and the amp looks and sounds great.

Neat little addition to my stable

As many folks during COVID-19 lockdown, I was looking for projects and this one fitted the bill nicely--even though I wasn't in need of another headphone amp. The kit is very relaxing to build, even without the well-written and well-ilustrated instructions. Basically, the markings on the PCB provide sufficient information for putting it all together. Even though I have considerable experience with electronics, I would say that with patience and care, this kit could be assembled successfully by a complete beginner. I took my time to do it over two evenings, going from lowest height (diodes), to resistors, to highest parts (heatsinks). For those, my vintage 1985 Weller gun came in handy. The only little gripe is that in my opinion the headphone jack should be soldered AFTER the whole thing is assembled, as soldering it with the plastic in contact with the PCB resulted in my case in a slight vertical misalignment with respect to the front panel hole. The switch and volume knob were perfectly aligned however, so it's definitely a phone jack issue. I decided to solder the current source LED on the component side of the PCB. I might be old-fashioned, but tubes usually don't glow blue... At such low heater current, these don't glow much anyway.

I feed it from the Tape Out of a Rotel RC-995 preamp via 25' of RCA interconnect (yes!) and the sound is sweet. So far I have only used the constant current source mode. The tubes are very microphonic, but since the heater current is very low and the tubes remain cool, any tube damper would likely fix this. I haven't bothered with that yet, since the amp is on a small IKEA bed table and I don't touch it. I have used it with Grado SR225e, B&O H6, Audio Technica ATH-M50x and... a pair of Koss Porta Pro. Great kit that is easy to assemble, sounds very good and looks completely professional. Makes a perfect gift--assembled or not!

Great little beginner amp!

This is a great place to start for diy audio!

It was my first PCB soldering attempt, and i did struggle a little bit at first, but the clear instructions and easy layout and labeling helped me through. I did struggle a bit with some of the larger joints with my 25W Weller (especially the heat sinks), but overall very straightforward.

Also I decided to put the LEDs all on the bottom of the board, as long as you pay attention to orientation and shift the order you attach the parts a bit (do the second set of LEDs before the sockets) I haven't had any issues.

Sounds Fantastic

This was the first time I built an electronics kit since I was maybe 10 or so. Went together very smoothly. The available documentation for this kit is great. I nearly bought a cheap "tube amp" of dubious origins on Amazon, but decided to build the starving student after reading lots of great things about it. I am glad I did. This amp adds real presence to both my headphones and to my newer Sony HiFi amp when used as a preamp.

This thing is GOOD

this is a really good unit considering the price, i am replacing my Massdrop CTH with this. this is a really dynamic amp and a really neat kit


This is my second DiyAudio proyect after Whammy headphone amp.
This one has been a bit easier for me. I would like to highlight the Excellent 6L6 construction guide and the assembly instructions written by Pete Millet.
It looks amazing thanks to the custom enclosure and The sound is superb

Which one to build?

Excellent beginner instructions. No problems with parts or build. I got it to use as a pre-amp with the amp camp amp. Although it sounds good, and gives more volume possibilities, the amp camp amps sounded better (to me) without it. I have since built the Whammy headphone amp. It seems more suited to the ACA, with no difference of sound style or quality that I can hear. So, this one, the starving student ll - excellent little project. I want to add a warning here - the ACA and Starving student are both designed for beginner construction, so no electrocution can occur. The Whammy headphone amp does assume a higher level of electronics awareness, and you are completely responsible for your own safety. Thanks as always DIYaudio, you bring happiness into my life.

amazing headphone amp

Build completed without issues thanks to the excellent build guide by 6L6 and extended notes and tips from Pete Millett. The kit arrived intact and in excellent shape. Thank you to Jason for his patience and guidance whenever called upon for assistance. The build was not difficult when approached with a reasonable amount of patience. Finished amp looks amazing thanks to the precision and sheer quality of the supplied enclosure. A golden nugget of a HP amp with pre-amp capability thrown in. Listening experience has been amazing. Immensely enjoyable and rewarding build. Highly recommended.

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