A90D/D90LE stack end game?

I was wondering if you would consider the topping A90D/D90LE stack something that could be considered end game for you? Also how big of an improvement would it be over a Asgard 3/modius stack? Thinking of pairing it with either the HE1000 V2 or HE1000 stealth which I hear is amp picky. Also if you have an opinion on which of the HE headphone you like better and for what reason that would be appreciated.

For me the A90D is endgame as far as solid state, plenty of power, sounds great, overall has everything i want/need - it wount be the only amp i use (tubes/hybrid a whole different ballgame).
the D90, personally i think its a bit overpriced though to be fair i havent tried it myself.

The A90D is a fairly good amp from what I have read. I prefer class A and class A/B amps myself though (Asgard 3 is class A/B). As for the DAC I would take a look at the Schiit Audio Bifrost 2/64 (my current DAC). For me it sounds better than most Delta sigma DACs I have tried. It is all a matter of use case and taste when it comes to picking a DAC or an amplifier. If you want to try a class A amp then the Rebel Amp at around $600 is a decent choice.

I have my Arya Stealth connected to the following chain:
AMHD>Wiim Pro>Bifrost 2/64>Burson Soloist 3XP /w supercharger.

My SJY Audio Starry Night v1 is connected to the following chain: AMHD>Wiim Pro>Bifrost 2/64>Burson Soloist 3XP /w supercharger> 2x Gjallarhorn mono blocks.

I have also had the Asgard 3 and the Topping L70 in my chain at one point or another. They all sound different, and it will (again) come down to your personal taste. You might want to get the DAC first

Personally no it’s not even close for me. The reason for this is once you hear a chain that has natural sounding timbre on headphones that are very resolving, like HE1K, it’s hard to go back to a neutral/sterile stack.
The topping stack is nice but if you hear well/have enough experience to be able to pickup on spatial cues like depth, width and placement you’ll hear pretty quickly it can sound kinda 2d instead of 3d/holographic.


If you had $1500 to spend on an amp and DAC for the he1000 what would you choose?

I really like the HE1K on my questyle CMA12 and those can be had for under 1k if you look hard enough.
Oh I’ve been hearing great things about the ef600, I’d probably take a chance on that as well.

Pick this up.

It’s going to eat the majority of your budget, and the Modius will hold it back a bit, but you’re not likely to find a better SS amp in your price range. You can always move up to something like a Bifrost 2/64, Ares 12th, or Soekris 2541 later on.

Alternatively, you could pick up a Quicksilver headphone amp if you want to go tubes and go with the HE1000SE. Wouldn’t recommend it for the V2, but the SE should run just fine on it. Again, you’d have to pick up a DAC upgrade down the line, but you should probably be looking at the amp first in this situation.

For me, no. Neither piece is bad in an absolute sense but they don’t stack up well against their competition when it comes to playing music. For me the long and short of it is they sound like they’re made to do exactly what they do: pass pure and simple sine waves as cleanly as possible. That needs unpacking…

Topping’s ethos is to put up the sparkliest measurements possible on an Audio Precision test box that primarily focuses on The Big Six measurements that all come directly from pure-tone sine waves, plus look really good on a multi-tone test that sends multiple pure sine waves simultaneously at logarithmic intervals. These tests have been around a long while and have frankly become easy to game.

But, WaveTheory, sound waves are sine waves!

Yes, they are…sorta. Real-world sound waves - meaning naturally occuring sounds that result from vibrations in a medium (like our atmosphere) - are summations of multiple sine waves that result from sine waves of integer multiples of each other (not logarithmic) AND other, less-cleanly spaced multiples that arise from how the vibrating material behaves. Reproducing all that well requires electrical circuits that are very nimble and can respond to very tiny fluctuations very quickly.

To my ear, that last bit is where Topping gear falls down. Topping amps and DACs are at their absolute best when you don’t ask much of them. Does your music have an intro that’s JUST a piano or JUST a guitar playing for a bit? That section will sound GREAT on a Topping. But, when the full orchestra/band/choir kicks in, their presentation goes mushy and loses a lot of defintion - to my ears anyway - as compared to much of their similarly-priced competition. The D90LE for example, sounds slighty better and everso slightly more realisitic than the original Schiit Bifrost 2 during the quiet opening of In The Hall of the Mountain King. But when the full orchestra comes in the D90LE loses a lot of its spatial coherence, timbral accuracy, and instrument separation abilities whereas the Bifrost 2 still sounds quite stunning and realisitic through all that chaos. Why? I strongly suspect it’s because the Topping gear is focused on making clean, easily predictable waveforms look really good, but when more and more instruments and/or vocals get added the waveforms look more and more complex with more and more very quick variations the Toppings start to freak out. They just aren’t made to handle all that complexity.

Topping fans love their measurement prowess as it’s narrowly defined. That’s fine. That approach produces a specific sound that appeals to some. In the end, finding a sound you like is what all of this is about. But, to my ears the Topping sound (and yes, it is a sound, NOT the absence of a sound) is slow, overly dry, mechanical, and artificial. IMO you can do a lot better for the money. So sure, they measure great as many want. But at what cost? To me it’s very much a case of be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

If you’re US-based I think the Schiit Bifrost 2/64 + Monolith Liquid Platinum are a solid mid-fi chain to run the HE1000 cans, particularly the stealth version. The Soekris dac1421 + Lake People G111mk2 is also a rock-solid option and the way I’d steer you if you are in the EU or somewhere not in the US.

Hope this helps. Cheers.


:point_up: Good advice, imo.


Thanks you, I really appreciate you explaining what makes them worse or better than alternatives in the same price point. I also appreciate you listing other alternatives within the same pricing range. I don’t really know anything about tube amps, or how often you need to replace the tubes. I am in the US, and will definitely consider the liquid platinum since so many people seem to recommend it, but if I decided to not go the tube route would you still recommend I get the G111 MK2 for the $6-700 range? Or is there something else I might want to consider?

If you trust this idiot, this could help:

The Liquid Platinum is not on that list because it’s not always $600. It has a slight mid-range emphasis to it that matches well to the delayed ear-gain rise of HiFiMan headphones.

Another option near the price (for new unit) is the Cayin iHA-6. I haven’t heard this one but it has an excellent reputation and lots of current drive power if you ever get curious about low efficiency planars.

Flux Labs also has a couple options around there and a strong reputation. I haven’t heard any of them either, so keep that in mind. They’re a Ukranian company though and there are, uh, extenuating circumstances happening there. I don’t know if this is a realistic option anymore, unfortunately.

Also keep your eyes peeled on the used market. If something like a Violectric HPA-V200 or Burson Soloist 3X pops up at a price you’re willing to pay, give them strong consideration. The HE1000 series is quite resolving and will scale up with better source gear quite well.


What makes the v200 or soloist 3x so much better than the liquid platinum or G111 MK2?

This is the exact reason that I suggested the BHA-1 @mclovinallthetime. You’ll get a lot of mileage out of that amp, even if you decide to upgrade your headphone down the road. Speaking of the 3XP though;

which leaves you enough to also pick up something like this;

Tube life is generally in the thousands of hours. You will, like anything else, sometimes get a dud that doesn’t last that long but turn them off when you aren’t using them and they will last quite a while.

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That would be an awesome deal on the Soloist /w Supercharger since new it could cost as much as $1,500 depending on the vendor.

Check the sell thread here!!!

Depending on your tastes and budget you might be happy with any of those amps. Every Amplifier has a different sound signature due to design and quality of the parts used. There is no way for any of us to know which one is best for you since sound is subjective. Take all of our opinions with a grain of salt, but we are just trying to give you the best options within a given price range. Personally I have made both good and bad purchasing decisions when it comes to audio gear, but it helped me learn what to look for with future purchases.

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I think @WaveTheory put it well, although likely giving the topping stuff more credit than I’d personally give lol. I just think you can do a lot better in the same price range or below if you’re actually looking for sound quality. If you’re after measurements, you also might as well avoid the d90/a90 and get something cheaper with mostly equally high numbers on paper and call it a day there too. Just see little value in the stack from both perspectives personally. They aren’t horrible or anything, just don’t bring much if anything to the table sound wise for me. I don’t think they’re flat out painful like some of the early thx amps or measurement focused amps, but they’re now more inoffensive but also basically empty underneath without any real redeeming sonic qualities to me for the price they ask.

On the note of endgame, ignoring the hek amp/source question since I feel like I gave what I’d say on your other thread (and some of the answers here said what I would have for the most part lol), I just wouldn’t suggest using the word, and wouldn’t suggest thinking that way lol. Truthfully, there’s (mostly) always better, so in terms of “end game” I don’t really think it’s a good term to use. I’d prefer the term reasonable stopping point, finding a setup that matches your preferences, your listing ability/skills/experience, and your budget, and then calling it there. I guess that could be considered an “endgame” for some, but still don’t like the term lol. Just because there’s better out there doesn’t mean that you should always feel the need or force yourself to change setups because of that. Just progress through things based on your experiences and your comfort range, wouldn’t suggest settling for something just because someone else says “it’s endgame, all you need bro” though. Sometimes moving to the next level can be super rewarding for some, but potentially not worth it for others, all depends on your experience, dedication, and what you want out of the hobby, and it’s something you’ll only really know for sure if you try things and see how they work out for you

Yeah your right, it’s just I’m so lost when it comes to dacs and amps that I don’t really know what’s good enough for my use case. Is my price point realistic or sufficient enough to match the headphones I want? Or how to tell what makes one so much better than other. Personally what I care about most is a wide sound stage with good separation and positioning. That’s what I find most magical about audio. Something that really allows me to hear everything in a song and nothing less. Like with my current Asgard/modius stack I feel like there is more clarity that can be had. I don’t really know if an amp being a little more analytical or warm makes much of a difference to me or that I can tell the difference. I don’t care about measurements since that doesn’t tell the whole story. Short of being able to listen to it, if someone can’t explain why I should get one thing over another or what benefits that particular amp or DAC provides I can’t tell if it’s worth it to me. I feel like even conventions aren’t a good representation since I’ll be listening to them on expensive stuff that may be out of my price point. I wish there was a local headphone/amp/DAC store near me so I could try them out. But I haven’t found anything even in Chicago. I listen to a wide variety of music, play casual video games, and even watch TV/movies with my headphones. So it’s not like I’m just looking for something that would be good for just one genre of music. It knows the HE1K isn’t good for everything but I feel much of that I could do well with. I mean if it’s known to be bright sometimes maybe something a little more laid back would better? If someone knows a place west of Chicago or even in Chicago that I can use to try stuff out with I would appreciate it.

Personally I think it’s somewhat low to get the most out of them, but you are at a good price point that used you can put together a pretty solid setup for them, above bare minimum for sure. It’s somewhere that I think is a good idea to actually start if you’re not fully sure, since you’re not hard committing to something more expensive and uncommon that you go into blind. I do think the plat + bf2 or soekris + lake people would be really good ways to get a solid upgrade from what you have, and explore what you like and what you’d really want from the upgrade. Also gives solid upgrade paths as well depending on what you like and choose

Would agree as well lol, personally I’m a big sucker for overall space, microdynamics, and just general time domain stuff, think that’s really the key to getting an engaging and realistic experience personally

Yep. Personally I like the asgard’s weighting for the price range, and it’s lower level dynamics and larger wider space, but it’s also a more relaxed, rounded, and not as immediately clean and clear focus, a bit more hazy in stage placement and sharpness. If you’re after something more overall defined esp in space, I’d absolutely consider the plat since I think that’s one of it’s strengths with the hek pairing. I also think the g111 and soekris combo is very good at this too. Really helps bring out the grandness and scale of the hek while also having really solid depth


They’re both an overall crapshoot but also a helpful way to find out what you might want to try in a more controlled environment lol. Moreso not to really hear the stuff there and make up your mind fully there, but more to figure out what’s at least interesting to look into further lol

Mostly everything left is pretty heavily speaker focused, and that’s not really going to help for headphones lol. Typically your best bet would be the headphone shows/conventions, or seeing if there are any local meetups in your area

I would agree that it’s well rounded enough to really cover what you want imo

Personally never found it bright, but also for some of the chains suggested the bf2 + plat is a bit more laid back in the treble already and a bit warmer leaning (depending on tubes), and the soekris + g111 is fairly neutral in the treble but also pretty smooth so also unlikely to be bright. Which might be another reason why it pairs well lol

I guess to outline why I’d personally pick one chain with a hek (going off a v2 in this case)

bf2 + plat: I think it’s very strong in overall dynamics, spatially large and immersive, and fairly resolving. Warmer leaning, pretty fast, strong overall control and slam, a bit slightly exaggerated and colored but overall very fun. There’s not many weaknesses I can think of with the hek pairup for the price point tbh, perhaps imaging and depth could be a slight bit overall sharper and it could be more balanced in presentation.

soekris + g111: Overall very neutral and balanced but not sterile or overly dry, cleaner approach but still well weighted, great nuance, smoother leaning despite it’s cleanliness, spatially it’s not as large and grand but it’s still reasonably wide but also fairly sharp on imaging and placement, more composed there. I also think it’s got great lower level nuance and control, more overall forward as well. I do think it’s more on the normal side of things, it’s more of a subtly impressive combo rather than riding on wow factor, more focused on the lower level stuff and overall balance.

Some of the other mentioned options would be the cayin, generally regardless of the dac it’s warmer and sweeter leaner, more depth than width focused in stage to me, and fairly dynamic overall. Smooth as well. Fairly forgiving too. I think if you’re looking for something a bit more on the chill side of things but not lacking control or overly smooth/soft, it’s worth a look personally

The soloist is generally a bit of a technical step up from the plat and g111 in some ranges, sort of next level, and is more a clean, forward, and very controlled and slammy sort of sound. Very macro focused in dynamics, great control and impact, really forceful but not harsh or unpleasant. Nice resolving power as well. Personally I wasn’t the biggest fan of it in the range as I felt stage was only average and nothing to write home about (not bad, but not amazing either), and I think it’s lacking a bit more portrayal of nuance in an organic manner compared to other options around that price range at least used. I still think it’s a solid pairing with the hek if you want to focus on cleaner leaning wow factor but not my first choice if you want something with really strong spatial. So step up from g111, plat, or cayin, in aspects like control, resolving power, and macrodynamics, but different direction if space is a priority. I do think depending on the dac you can help it out in this regard, I personally liked some of the more spatially exaggerated dacs with it to bring out more if you go with one

The flux personally isn’t my favorite at least the fa10, while I think it’s overall slam and control is nice, to me it’s not as technically up to par as some of the aforementioned, and seems a bit more like a brute force approach. I liked the fa12 more, but still, I’d rather have the other amps mentioned since that’s just going to be a better value esp used in the us imo

Honestly a fair bit of audio is just trial and error and building experience through that (at least it was for me at first lol). You just gotta sometimes take the jump on a reasonably informed decision and see how it pans out, if it worked out well, great, if not, then you can learn from it and use that experience to better guide the next decision. A lot of the stuff you just have to hear for yourself and decide at some point lol. Doesn’t mean to not make informed decisions and jump in blindly on stuff lol, but you’ll just hit a point where you can’t go further without that actual experience


Sounds like the next thing I should try next is the bf2/liquid platinum then. Not knowing anything about tubes, would I be able to use the tubes it comes with or should I expect to replace them right away with something else? Do I just pull them out and plop in the new ones or is it more complicated than that? While the BF2 and Liq Plat is at the high end of what I’m looking to spend new. If I went used what’s a higher end setup what do you think would beneficial to look at? And would either these still work good with my Empyreans?