Advice on future headphone/amp upgrade

Hey all, I’m new here and just looking for some advice on future upgrades for my use case. I’m in AUS so my price point is based on AUD and under $1,000 AUD. I don’t won’t to spend over that, as I think I could get a decent low-end and maybe an ok mid-range (let me know otherwise haha) setup for under $2,000 AUD.

Any buying option I’ve listed is mainly becuase these are the only ones I’ve read reviews or watched YouTube videos on. If you have another suggestion please let me know.

My current setup is below:

DAC: Topping DX3 Pro+ (connect to PC)
Powered Speakers: KRK ROKIT 5 G4 5" (getting into music production as a hobby)
Headphones in rotation: ATH-m50, ATH-AD700x (used for gaming), Grado SR80, PC38x (used for gaming)

Future plans, headphones:
I’d like to buy a pair of headphones for under $1,000 AUD with the intention to use it as my music listening headphones mainly. I listen to a lot of house/electronic music (bias to bass) and getting into more acustic style music with vocals; I guess sing-song writer type music. I’m mainly leaning towards open-back headphones as I’m willing to sacrifice some bass for a better sound stage seeing as I’m wanting to get into more acustic music.

I don’t have expereince with planar magnetic headphones and I’m not sure if there is an addtional gear that I would need?

Buying options:

  • Audeze LCD-2C Classic Planar Magnetic Headphones
  • HIFIMAN ANANDA Stealth Planar Magnetic Headphones
  • Focal Clear Open Back Headphones
  • HIFIMAN HE-5se Planar Magnetic Headphones
  • HIFIMAN Edition XS Planar Magnetic Headphones
  • Sennheiser HD650 Open Back Headphones

Future plans amp:
From some reading I’ve done on this forum and looking at some Z reviews, the suggestion for next steps appears to be an amp purchase to drive higher level headphones. My budget for an amp would be under $1000 AUD.

Buying options: I’m really at a loss and don’t know where to start. I’ve read reviews and wathed YouTube reviews so in theory things makes sense but also feel like I’m grasping at straws to understand how I could use one practically for my future setup plans.

  • Topping A90 Discrete Balanced Headphone Amplifier
  • iFi audio ZEN Signature Set HFM (Zen DAC Signature V2 & Zen CAN Signature HFM) (its the stack)
  • SMSL Audio SP400 Headphone Amplifier
  • Topping A90 Balanced Headphone Amplifier
  • Topping L70 Full Balanced NFCA Headphone Amplifier

That’s all I can think of in terms of my current setup and future plans but let me know if you need any other info and I’ll be able to clarify.

Cheers.

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most ifi products have a well implemented bass boost. you also get the ifi house sound. which is quite different then topping/smsl. the rest you mentioned are mostly the same.

ill throw out the schiit lyr+. i have the lyr3 and love the bass on it. But it also will have a different sonic sound then topping.

So the real question to start is: Do you want to change it up from the topping sound, or are you happy with it?

I wouldn’t mind changing the topping sound if there’s an option to increase bass when needed, I think that would be ideal when switching from house to another genre. This option sounds pretty good.

Do you have an opinion on any of the headphones I’ve listed?

I have the 600’s, which have the same driver, with a slightly different tuning as the 650’s. they are nice for the price range. Bass is not that drivers strongest suite. it handles a slight bump, but from my experience, thats about it before it starts to distort. and while bass is clean and present, it doesnt go the lowest well and has little slam.

I have not heard the rest, or different versions of them. I can say i love my t60rp argons for edm/bass music. From my planar versus dynamic experience thus far, planar tends to hit harder and faster. which seems to work well with edm and other electronic bass. but can be to fast for some natural bass to keep sounding natural.

edit: more on the hd650. the bass is good. strings and such sound very natural. it just doesnt handle subbass and electronic bass the best. not thats its bad at them, there is just better in the price range for those types of bass.

The Topping L70 has plenty of power to drive most headphones (granted it is better Balanced than SE). I have one as a Preamp for my speaker setup, but I have tried my HD 660s, Hifiman Arya, and a pair of SJY Audio headphones on it. It sounds a little dry with the Arya compared to my Burson Soloist 3XP, but not bad. The L70 pairs well with the HD 660s though, and I have spent quite a few late night listening sessions on that setup. I have not listened to the Schiit Lyr+ nor Lyr3, but Schiit Audio amps are good from my experience. I did have a Asgard 3 die on me, but that was after heavy use for a few years in a hot room. So don’t let that deter you. I purchased a Bifrost 2/64 even after that happened, lol. If you do end up looking at Schiit Audio for the Amp then you might want to also take a look at Jotunheim 2 as well if you plan on going with balanced cables for your headphones. The Lyr+ is the better bet if you are going SE though, as it can supply 9 watts per channel @ 16 ohms. I don’t know how much the shipping costs will be for you though. Good luck with your decision

I don’t have Hifiman Sundaras (yet), but they’re often seen as “detail monsters”. Good to have for music production. And still apparently “smooth” and more natural-sounding (planars tend to be more analytical and treble-oriented).

Thanks for that I’ll have to seach for more music impressions with the HD600 - 650’s

SE stands for ‘single-ended’ right?

Thanks heaps for your detailed response - I think going balanced is probably the go since it would allow me to try out balanced headphones in the feature even if I don’t buy a pair as my next upgrade. The Burson Soloist 3XP is like $1,500 or less here so probs just a touch out of my price range. I’ll have a look more thoroughly at the L70 and Schiit products you mentioned.

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I’ll keep that in mind, I’m still new to music production and have really only started to learn how to use chords in music haha.

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Right around your price range is the meze 109 pro and definitely has some of the best timbre around for under $1K USD. Honestly your topping will be just fine till you really want to change up sound signature and then you’re looking at $1k USD or better.

Meze 109 Pro, I’ll have a look into that one. So if I had to spend over 1k USD what would you suggest?

I really enjoy my 3xp. hhhhmmmm after that I think your in GSX mini or Orr range. Oh the ifi I can pro if you can find a deal would be a great choice as well.

For headphones over $1k fostex th900mk2 would probably be what I reach for the most. It most likely would be a little fatiguing on your topping but nothing a little EQ couldn’t fix. Over $2k would definitely be the ZMF Atrium.

Now that I’m looking you did mention Audeze LCD2C, I have the LCD2CB and it’s a fantastic step into the planar world for the price. Wide soundstage with great sub bass, can be very isolating if you need it and it’s not insanely hard to drive.

Yeah, I would not recommend jumping right to the soloist 3xp anyway, as even in my case I got it because I was purchasing the Hifiman Arya which was $1,600 USD at the time. So in my case I thought a source chain upgrade was warranted. I did own a Sundara prior to getting the Arya, and they were definitely an eye opener. They give you a lot of detail and sound quality for the money. The Sundara does benefit from using an amplifier that has a decent amount of power on tap. I was using it with a Schiit Asgard 3 originally. Plenty of headphones to choose from, but everyone perceives sound differently so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

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Hhmm, ok looks like I need to do some more search on the future sound profile I’m looking for.

Looks like I just need to take time and not rush the decision but a lot of great ideas for you and everyone thats commented.

Cheers dude

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