First setup advice: headphones, DAC & AMP

Hey, I’m a new user thinking about getting into improving my audio at home. As of today I’m pretty dead set on getting the Hifiman HE4XX headphones for gaming and listening to music, but I’m not sure what I should grab for both the DAC and AMP. I’ve been eyeing the Schiit stack, but I’m not entirely sure whether I should get the JDS Atom, Liquid Spark, or the Archel Pro over the Magni, and I have no idea of any alternatives to the Modi.

I’ll never argue with anyone who recommends JDS Atom or Liquid Spark, but I’ve really been taken aback with how much I’ve enjoyed the Topping DX3 Pro (Dac & Amp combo). Plenty of power and the sound is clear with no lispy ssssss sounds. Has bluetooth (tried it once and it was easy and sounded good for BT). Also comes with a remote.

Z Review


I would personally get something like a topping d10 and a jds atom or liquid spark, or you could get an all in one unit like @XyleFBB mentioned. Both are great options :+1:

The schiit stack has kinda been beat out value wise imo, unless you really like the look of the stack or want an American made product


I honestly don’t mull too much over manufacturing, though build and sound quality are more of a concern to me.

Then I would say that the options above are the best in their class imo


That’s part of the reason I picked the DX3 combo over the Atom + Dac. The Atom build quality is as bad as the power level and sound are good.

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I take it the sound quality is pretty uniform across all amps and the DX3?

Well, I would say that the dx3 pro and the jds atom are the cleaner, more uncolored amps, where the liquid spark kinda has more body to the lower end compared to the other amps, but the detail is still there.

The liquid spark is the most powerful, the atom is second, and the dx3 pro is the least powerful.

For the most solid low end, I would go for the liquid spark, and for the most transparent output, I would go for the atom. The DX3 pro kinda sits in the middle imo regarding sound signature. This is only evaluating sound quality, not features or build or whatnot

I think the build on all of them is fine, but the spark and dx3 pro feel a little bit more solid compared to the atom, but all of them have no glaring flaws or anything like that regarding build.

The atom has multiple inputs and can function as a preamp if needed and has 2 modes of gain

The spark has one input and a preamp. Also has 2 modes of gain

The DX3 pro has digital inputs like usb, coax, and optical, with no analog inputs, but it does have a line out for the dac. It also has bluetooth supporting up to APTX-HD, and also includes a remote. It has 2 modes of gain as well.

I would personally prefer the separate dac and amp combos, but if you are looking at an all in one, the DX3 is great for the price


In that case, I’m pretty certain I’ll be getting the Spark, and the D10 for my combo to go along with the HE4XX. I imagine those two will be all I need for a while. And the rest of that investment will go to grabbing all the music I need to get some CD quality FLACs. Is it a safe assumption that these two devices will also work on MacOS should I ever feel the need to plug into my Macbook as well?

There shouldn’t be an issue with macos, but I don’t have a Mac so I can’t tell you for sure

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Alright then, if anything, many thanks for the help on choosing the right setup!

Np, if you have any more questions just ask

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I’ve been reading that the HE4XX headphones have a bevy of QC issues. Should I consider grabbing a different pair of headphones that’ll most likely be reliable?

I think the 4xx are great and the people I know don’t seem to have any issues.

If you would be concerned about build issues, the hd58x is pretty good as well in that price range

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Well, if that’s the case I’ll still grab the HE4XXs, outside of the word of some old forum posts, they do seem to be well built, so hopefully when I can get my pair they’ll be just fine.

I do think they are pretty great. Would you still grab an amp or dac (or both)?

Edit: still dumb as ever, disregard. was thinking of a different thread

Oh don’t sweat it!
If anything I’m sure I’ll be pretty satisfied overall with what I intend to get.

Honestly that’s a crazy price to performance setup, so I hope you really enjoy it

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Thank you very much! I look forward to geek out soon over the improved audio for the first time!

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Just curious, what are you currently (or have been) using for headphones (or earbuds)?