First build because Zeos is a gateway drug

I am new to the Audiophile world and I know there’s no turning back once I start, but I’m more than excited to experience great sound. Unfortunately, through rigorous research I’ve concluded that today there’s many options that can satisfy you’re budgeting means, and I’m getting a little overwhelmed. I’ve purchased my starting headphones and can’t wait to make the most of them. So far this is a small list I’ve compiled through all my research of potential candidates to start down this wallet rabbit hole. I am open to many new suggestions or input. For example, I’m not stern on aesthetics over quality (can mix and match these choices) Also to preface my onboard mobo is part of my budget computer build so I feel getting a DAC is needed (Gigabyte 970A-ud3p mobo) I mainly will use this for music, with gaming a little on the side. Most music is streamed or downloaded/FLAC from sites like bandcamp etc.

Current Headphone: $204 (Not made of money Yet)

Future upgraded cables if needed

Current Budget Speakers

Now for DAC/AMPs, this is where I’m getting overwhelmed from the 4,520 choices that are available at a budget price range

For DACs im looking at either

  • Modi 3 for stack aesthics, though not firm on this, but budget is nice.
  • Khadas Tone Board with DIY case (Still unsure how this compares to other entry level $100 DACs)
  • SMSL M100.


  • Heresy because of the power
  • Notorious Atom (Con: plastic build) vs Liquid Spark (Amp gets noticeably hot)
  • Also considered the Magni 3+for a stack and clean look

But if this build can be future proofed for something over the HD58x’s 150ohm, I have considered getting a Geshelli “stack” (Archel 2.5pro and ENOG 2). Though with this “stack” the aesthetic seems off with the power and toslink cables coming out of the front of the ENOG 2 DAC. But I can manage if this thing is the go-to decision.

I appreciate any insight, suggestions, etc from this very informed community and I’m completely at your will. I feel there are many good choices, but I just want to make sure I dont miss out on some of the golden choices/combos that are out there.

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For a nice affordable amp check the Schiit Magni. Clean, powerful and with a metal case.

If you are starting out my advice would be this - price is not a proxy for sound quality and do not assume more expensive = better.

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The Atom its really clean, having owned a THX 789 its great if you just want transparancy.

The Liquid spark cavalli sound is so good the immediacy is amazing having heard the spark its my pick out of the two for enjoyment.

An honorable mention is the Dark voices tube amp I’d definitely look into that above a solid state seeing as you own 58X’s the magic that a tube does to that headphone is beyond words its the most enjoyable audio experience and really any tube will be over a solid state for your current headphones will be my choice over any solid state.

Final honorable mention would be the Cavalli Liquid Carbon X from Massdrop for enjoyment its endgame solid state enjoyment. No its not as clean as a THX 789 but I’d highly recommend it especially if you can find it second hand thats a no brainer or purchase.

The Geshelli is definitely the go to DAC for sure having the voltage output adjustability, balanced and RCA and the price its a king which I dont think any other Dac does at this price and it means that you can use it for any amp combo

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My main advice for solid state would be to start looking second hand first. especially if you’re buying solid state. Save the cash, get the value

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Good point to look out for that mindset, which is why I turned to here after countless hours/literal days of researching.

Ive seen some good entry level dac/amp all-in-one combos as well, but want this build to be more future proof and interchangeable.

Though I am a complete novice in this field. I was looking at the Geshellis setup for the balanced input/output setup option (paired with Hart Audio XLR Patch Cables ($40) as well)

Sounds like a good plan, Id definitely go the Geshelli stack its too easy

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Going off of tube amps, I looked a little into it but thought it was more Hi-Fi end game gear. Is there any reason to not opt for these? Special care or limitations? Also do you know if the heat from the Spark is a real issue? I can be stationed at my computer for hours for work/studying and dont want that to impact anything.

For pricing I was thinking of some combos, what do you think?

  • $: Liquid Spark Amp & SMSL M100 DAC
  • $$: Liquid Spark Amp & ENOG2 DAC
  • $$$: Geshelli Stack for sweet Balance, voltage etc
  • $$$$: SMSL SP 200 $ ENOG 2 DAC

And if tubes are the way i’d be willing to look into them for a solid future proof investment! Thank you so much for the insight and suggestions. Time to do more research!

EDIT Update: Found that Liquid Carbon amp for half off on sale. Now thinking about LC amp & ENOG 2 DAC

I think the best sounding stack is gonna be the Geshelli. Mon says the amp has a more natural sound and the DAC is the best in this price range. Also they should stack nicely together for 360$ you can get the DAC in red!

heresy is great and I would reccomend over the atom cause both basically sound the same one is better built and has more power.
liquid spark does produce heat but is nothing to worry about you are also backed by monoprice’s excellent warranty if your worried also the liquid spark DAC is on the way so if your looking for a stack they are on the way.
basically anything can power the 58x. but the liquid spark and heresy can power a lot up to 600 ohm beyerdynamics. but the G stack would be a better stack to start off with if you want to drop the money to buy it.

tubes are a thing you get when you either : get bored of your current set up and want something different or have a headphone or speakers that warrant it . like a hd 650, hd600, hd 800s. for now I would forget about tubes and establish a really good pair of headphones and solid state set up

A few thoughts here. The 58x are not known for being amp sensitive, so the amp you pick for that specific headphone probably isn’t a huge issue. But, you also say in your initial post that you know that you’re entering into exploration mode. The amp you pick may influence your ability to explore OTHER headphones. Since you use the term “budget” a lot in your post, I’m going to assume that you don’t have deep pockets and will have to do several iterations of saving up before you try new things. Getting a variety of headphones is likely the quicker way to learn about what sound signature you like and what parts of the frequency spectrum matter most to you. With that I would recommend getting as neutral an amp/dac combo or integrated unit as you can with enough power to drive the popular headphones <$500. Thus, I recommend avoiding the current version of the Modi. Yes, if you pair it with another Schiit product it looks cool, but it colors the sound to a much more noticeable degree than the other DACs you mention (I’m curious why the Topping D10 didn’t make your short list of DACs?). But, any of other DACs you mentioned should be a good choice in this price range. As far as amps, as much as I love my Atom - and I do love it - it doesn’t have the oomph to get the most out of the Fostex T50rp or any of the mods based on it, like the Argons. That could be a factor as you explore this new hobby as the T50-based products are common and well regarded <$500 headphones. And for good reason, once you get the right combo of pads and amplification they sound really good. But, they are some kind of power hungry. Another popular budget can is the Drop/HiFiMan HE4XX which are also power hungry - though not to the degree of the T50. So in your situation I would probably recommend the Magni Heresy. However, if you’re willing to consider an amp-dac combo, the Fiio K5 Pro gives you more power than the Atom, comes with a decent DAC already, and costs only about ~$150. That probably cuts down on the time until you get a second headphone to go with your 58x and start exploring different signatures. I hope this helps.


Agreed that you shouldn’t get tubes yet. Although they would pair well with the senns, it’s not guaranteed to pair well with everything else and you won’t hear and future headphones “true” signature. Solid state is best to start with.

I just got the enog and it really is great. Simplicity at its finest with great sound. Although it is a bummer that it’s hard to display it with cords sticking out the front but it’s not too bad. I haven’t heard the heresy yet but I do like schiits gear for the most part. It’s hard to beat their price and quality.

I agree with you that you’d be best getting the dac and amp separate. It’s a bummer needing a whole new setup for a new amp because your dac is built in, especially when the dac in your amp is really good. If you do get a combo. Just make sure it has a lineout so you can use the dac on it’s own for a future amp.

By the way. The enog with red metal case and black glass is purrrrrty. Just saying

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If you’re going solid state for enjoyment it’s a no brainer if it’s half off the liquid carbon is a better amp than the spark for sure and the Atom. I would spend the solid state cash on that combo.

Now tubes do need to be replaced (if you’re using them hard) once per year approximately but you can get very good replacement tubes on ebay ill link some later.

They do transfer microphonics so if people are banging around the office with chairs etc

They get really hot the tubes themselves but nothing to worry about for home use but I wouldn’t recommend something as exposed as a Dark voices unless you’re into showing them off

The spark gets a little warm like the liquid carbon but it’s like warm to the touch not like a boiling kettle so it would be fine anywhere

For average use the tubes in the CTH or another hybrid really would last a few years tbh

But for everyday use in an otl amp that would most likely be accurate

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For sure and the Cavalli CTH is a great middle ground for tubes and sound and you can find them nicely second hand

Tubes are good for thousands of hours.

I’ve got tubes in amps that have been in there for 5+ years, and I don’t really have a reason to change them. I usually expect every 3 years or so to replace.

They are an added expense, but unless you’re going silly with obscure NOS tubes for headphone amps, they really aren’t very expensive.
It’s very different with Big Monoblock Stereo Amps where even relatively pedestrian tubes can be a significant expense.

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I think if you do use them every day at a desk, the 1yr response would be more reasonable. For a stereo setup you typically wouldn’t have those on for more than 6rs a day or so. I’m talkin like being at a desk for the entire day listening to music for most of the year

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Still think that’s too aggresive, even with 8 hours a day use, but I guess with most entry level headphone amps your looking at ~$40-$60 to re-tube.

Having said that, there is the safety issue in an office, the tube on the CTH doesn’t get really hot, but something like a Dark Voice can hurt you if your not aware they are going to be hot.

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I’ve bought almost everything for my cans rig used off headfi including the amp, dac, cans, tubes with nary a problem.

This thread is great and I appreciate all the help and insight!

Im definitely putting most suggestions on a wishlist while i test out the headphones to see what kind of profile im looking for, and what other build can cater to specific situations.

For now I think Im going for the ENOG2 DAC for a simple balanced/rca dac with voltage output adjustability. And for the Amp to start i went with the atom with a replacement knob (as seen on other forums) for a good starter. I would love to save and test out this build then move up to more prominent amps such as the THX789, LCX cavalli, and much more research into tubes.

I like the advice to look more for a solid set of cans, and I’m definitely looking forward to trying many types in time (Wallet is still crying).