Beginning the Headphone Hi-fi Eutopia

Just bought a set of Massdrop HD58X after watching Z’s review. Now i need to pair them with a good amp and dac, portable would be a bonus as i travel and want my sound with me all the time.

What would be your budget? I will list some portable options below

For around 100usd you could get a fiio q1 mk2 or 150 for a topping nx4

For 170 USD you could get an xduoo xd-05

For around 200usd you could get an ifi nano idsd black label

There are definitely higher end options as well.

My budget is about $700 since i saved alot by getting the HD58X phones…

I have been reading thru the forums… I think I am going to go with a SMSL SU-8/SH-8 stack for my 1st setup.

The Massdrop THX AAA 789 will be my next piece of gear, it will be available again in about 15 days and if I order today it will ship in November.

That gear should setup up quite nice I think…


That’s pretty overkill for a 58x unless you have more headphones in mind imo

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Yeah that budget is a bit much for the 58x, I would consider putting some of that money and get another pair of cans to compliment them well.


jds equipment would be my guess then buy another set of cans. Can never have too many cans so I have learned.


That’s the way to do it. Topping d10 and jds atom + more headphones for the most mileage

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As others have said, this is WAY overkill for the 58x. The 58x doesn’t even really need an amp, to be honest. And none of that is portable.

Headphones scale much more the more you spend than amps and DACs do.

I would be willing to bet most people would fail a blind ABX test between a JDS Atom and a THX 789. Seriously, just buy the Atom. It’s clean and powers nearly everything and is only $100. It’s literally the best value money can buy for an amp right now.

If I were you, and I had that budget, I would sell the 58x, buy DT 1990s, an Atom amp and D10 DAC.

Edit: if you want a portable amp/DAC, the Topping NX4 is very nice.

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There are alot of other headphones as well. You could probably get 2 more mid-range headphones and keep your 58x + the atom and d10 in your budget if you wanted to have a couple more variety.

I would say it would depend on the headphones used and the audience, but I agree with your point that the atom is plenty

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I disagree. There are plenty of ABX tests out there that show it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between solid state headphone amps. The Atom can fully power 99% of headphones on the market.

Also a pretty strong claim. I still agree that the atom is great and works well with most the things you throw at it, but I don’t think it’s nearly impossible to tell amps apart unless you are using low quality headphones, then it would be way more difficult. If you learn to listen for differences in sound you can pick out differences. I have done abx tests with some of my amps (speaker though) with someone constantly switching them with a switching box, and if you learn what to listen for it can be done. It’s like how I can reliably pick out a lossless file vs mp3 320 (also done with abx). But I can’t tell the difference between a 24/96 and a 24/192. I would say someone with a trained ear can hear differences between amps, but I would agree that the average person usually can’t. Unfortunately I don’t own either the atom or the 789, but I have heard them, but I can’t do the test myself

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I should add that in an ideal scenario, you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between solid state amps, but many things that range from manufacturing tolerances, good vs less ideal designs, specific tuning to an amp to achieve a certain sound, how the rest of your components react to the amp, etc. effect how it ends up sounding. And also to clarify, I wouldn’t be able to identify the amp if I had no clue what amps I was using, but I could compare the differences between the two. Having used the amp for a period of time beforehand would also greatly increase my ability to pick out the differences as well.

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Well GS_X mini has a warm character to it’s sound and 789 is neutral. That is of higher end amp. I currently have ifi pro Ican and Aune x7s. I can’t tell difference with a quick listen, only difference is power output is killer on ifi. I should be getting the mini soon and 789 in Nov. I hope there’s a difference.

I have a topping d10 and will recommend he gets one. It’s great because it converts all you should need in music and powers off the usb. Last he can add toslink out to future set up. I think they are $80 brand new. Also I’ll recommend Aune x7s he can add balance cable to it even though it’s not balanced in. I’ll snapp a pic later of the two.


All good advice…


I didn’t like the SMSL stack it didn’t have the dynamics that my Aune x7s was putting out so I sold it. Z recommends monoprice thx 788. Could just go the DAP route then later do desk top. Monolith by Monoprice Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC with THX AAA Technology $299.00

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Topping D10 and Aune x7s

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Not really. Scientific studies have been done. If proper ABX test is done with proper volume matching, test subjects cannot differ between solid state amps.

You say you have done tests, but I would challenge you on providing how you did it.

Placebo and junk science is common in this hobby.

I would agree

We had two amps in a room with a pair of ls50’s, and he had a bryston amp and a krell amp. They were of similar caliber and price. Also had super similar measurements and power ratings. He bought a diy speaker terminal switcher switcher (kinda wish I had one) so he could compare the two and return the one he liked less, and I was curious if I could tell them from each other. After properly volume matching with a spl meter, we had one of us go behind a couch and switch the inputs randomly for a couple of minutes, and then had to pick out which was which. I remember picking them correctly because the krell amp had something different about the presence area and was slightly sharper there, where the bryston sounded more even to my ears. I did hear both amps a day earlier though. It was nowhere near a scientific test and we were just messing around at that point. I’m sure there are many flaws, but most people won’t have a perfect setup either. I couldn’t tell the difference from balanced to unbalanced in that setup though, after they were volume matched

Like I said, if everything was perfectly engineered there would be no perceivable differences. But manufacturers gotta do something to differentiate themselves in the higher end market

And another thing is that no one is forcing you to spend money on a nicer amp if you don’t feel that there is a difference. I’m sure that some people are definitely mislead, and that’s why if I recommend anything it’s always going to be conservative and the best value possible, as my goal isn’t to push anything on anyone.

You also have to consider the human brain when you talk about ABX testing. I feel the better way to test something like amps is to spend a lot of time with each amp and really let you get a sense of all the properties about it. Your brain can’t really fully process short abx testing. But that could be said about any method as well. The brain is not a machine and alters results of everything we do. There are so many ways your brain can be tricked and altered

Another thing to think about is that these are very small differences in sound. People kinda have to be familiar with both the amps and spend adequate time to really pick up on difference. If you just take a random sample of people and let them find a difference between something they have never heard before, I’m not surprised they can’t tell a difference. It would be like showing people a painting with slight differences in the colors and lines, and letting them look at it for a few minutes, and then show them the other painting. People are going to have a pretty hard time finding the differences. If you let people spend a few days familiarizing themselves with the subject material, it’s going to be pretty likely that you have more people spot the differences. ABX testing is a scientific way of comparison, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will lead to results that tell the whole story. There are plenty of other methods of discrimination testing that could yield different results

I’m just going to pick the better thing to my ear, and something that sounds better to me. There’s more that goes into something “sounding good” then just the sound. The ideal goal of this hobby is to enjoy the sound, and if someone decides to throw money at expensive cables, it’s their choice, and actually might influence their brain to perceive their setup to sound better to them. It’s pretty impossible to remove your brain from the equation unfortunately. (not advocating for expensive cables here, just an example) You just have to account for that, and that in its self is why placebo lives in this hobby. But I definitely don’t like the false scientific claims in audio, as there is a difference from recognizing placebo and accepting it vs trying to claim something as scientific fact when it is clearly not


I started with a smsl su8 dac and a jds lab atom, in planing to get a better amp in the future but for now I’m super happy.