First step into real audio - HiFiMan Sundaras?

Hi everyone,

Complete beginner to the scene but due to my pretty old astro a40s giving up on me I am in the market to see what a quality pair of headphone and a proper amp/dac setup can offer.

I have a budget of around £500, or about $700 and for that price I want it to last me quite a few years. Im looking for something primarily for music to listen to while working (varied tastes - mostly rock/punk pop/lofi at the moment) and immersive single player gaming with the occasional dip into online fps.

After researching for a couple of days and changing my mind about 100 times it would seem the HiFiMan Sundaras have everything that I’m looking for? Open to suggestions and please correct me if i’m wrong.

In the UK I can get a pair for £299. That leaves me with around £200. My main question is with that budget what amp/dac combo should I pair with them to get the best out of them for both music and gaming?

I see the Ifi zen dac suggested quite a bit as a strong entry level combo unit and I think the bass feature sounds very interesting especially with the Sundaras. I can get it for £129.

After some research into pairing the 2, I can see some mixed reviews. I have read some opinions that the zen dac although capable of running the Sundaras, just isn’t powerful enough to get the most out of them. Or that it is…but it needs a seperate power cable and/or a custom balanced cable as the balanced port outputs more power? I can’t seem to find a definitive answer.

The issue being that if need to buy a power cable (£10) and a custom balanced cable (seem quite hard to get hold of in the uk and the cheapest I can find is £55 on ebay) that puts me just within budget which is fine but then I feel that raises some questions.

  1. If to get the most out of the zen dac I have to put in another £65 that brings the total to £200 for the zen dac and is there a better option at that price point?

  2. Can I add the cables as I feel they are needed or will I really be missing out?

  3. Is it worth saving the money from the cables and putting it towards upgrading to a stack with the ifi zen amp or an amp from another manufacturer at a later date Instead?

Any help greatly appreciated.

Hi! Welcome to HFGF!

I agree with the concern the Zen DAC doesn’t have the power to get the most out of the Sundaras. Getting a dedicated power supply for it doesn’t actually increase the available power, either, it stabilizes it. USB power can be a bit dirty in that it may not always be a consistent, full, 5V. I still like the Zen DAC as a dac and agree that it’s bass boost is nice. I have more thoughts on it here. The Sundara is one of those headphones that will likely benefit from that boost but it’s gonna require some power. I don’t know where in the EU you are, but can you get ahold of any of the JDS Labs Atom amp, Monolith Liquid Spark amp, or either of the Schiit Magni 3+ or Heresy (this one especially might be a challenge)? Those all deliver plenty of power to drive the Sundara’s using a Zen DAC as a DAC only and with that bass boost enabled. Otherwise, for EU listeners we tend to recommend Lake People amps a lot as they are built in Germany. Their entry-level model is the G103-s. You might consider going in stages here. Buy Sundara + Zen DAC to start (go ahead and get a PSU for it, but all you should really need is a quality phone-charger wallwart and a USB-to-DC power cord - which I think iFi puts a short one in the box so you might just need the wallwart and a USB extension cable). It will be decent. Then, let funds build up again to grab the G103-s. That will rock your world.

Good luck!

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