Good Amp pairing for Utopia and VC


I’m new to this forum (but not a newbie in the audio world).

I’m looking for a Solid State Amp (and maybe DAC combo) that will make my Utopia and Verite Closed shine, as a secondary setup to complement my Woo WA8. I know that these two headphones have a quite different sound signature and impedance, that’s why I need a bit of your help to take a good decision…

I’m looking for a setup that will highlight the strengths of both of my two headphones (the precision, the dynamics and the airiness of the Utopia and the holographic and timbre richness of the VC) and that will bring a more clean and precise sound signature than my WA8 (without sacrificing too much naturalness, presentation, presence and timbre).

Since I don’t have too much desktop space, first, I was planning to get my hands on a Modi Multibit DAC to pair with my JDS Atom Amp (which I already own). So, first of all, do you think the Modi Multibit and the Atom could do a great budget pairing for Utopia and VC, or am I better to look for a better amp (especially for soundstage and timbre)? From my few listening sessions, the Atom actually do a decent job with the VC in terms of punch, tightness and clarity, but it fall a bit short in terms of soundstage (a bit lacking in depth IMO). The Atom is also a bit “digital sounding” and lacking a bit on timbre out of my Utopia… I’m actually using a small Lotoo Paw S1 as a DAC (AK4377 chip) to feed it, so, definitely not the best pairing to judge the Atom BTW…

With the idea of getting a Modi Multibit and the Amp upgrade in mind, here are the few interesting Amp offerings I’ve found :

  • RNHP (could be a good pairing with the Modi Multibit and the Focals in terms of timbre, but according to Zach, it could sound dull with ZMF cans… Soundstage is okay, but great imaging)

  • Gilmore Lite Mk2 (brighter than RNHP, so could be a great pick for what I’m looking with the VC, but I’m not sure in terms of timbre with the Utopia. Not that much information about soundstage and imaging…)

  • Lake People G111 (again, a bit brighter than RNHP, so could be a great pick for the VC, but I’m not sure in terms of timbre with the Utopia. Wider soundstage than RNHP, but a less precise imaging)

  • Lehmann Audio Drachenfels (not much information about this model, but it seems great in terms of neutrality and soundstage)

  • Violectric V2xx (sounds good, but quite pricey and a bit too big for my destop)

  • Audio GD R2R 11 (same thing as the Violectric, except for the price)

So, that’s where I am right now.
Any comments / other suggestions?

Thanks a lot in advance!

To be honest with a utopia, I’d be wanting to spend at minimum around the 2k range used for an amp, and 2k range used for a dac, but I’m going to guess that’s not where you would prefer to spend based on this post lol

Well if you had to keep things around 1k ish combined, you would kinda be picking things that might prioritize the verite over the utopia, because to be honest I don’t really enjoy the utopia on any of the 500 ish buck amps I can think of, the rnhp would be my first choice out of the bunch but it’s still super lackluster on there, so at that point I might just instead focus on getting a decent quality pairing for the verite and focusing on an appropriate amp for the utopia later down the line.

Out of what you listed, if you could find a vio v2xx that would be pretty great for what you are after (spacious soundstage, great dynamics, good clarity, with decent richness, but not super well extended in the treble so the soekris would be needed to help correct that) you could pair it with a soekris dac and be pretty well off imo. I wouldn’t go for the audio gd if you want to maintain refinement and technicalities imo, the gilmore lite mk2 is brighter with good tonal density, but spatially and dynamically only ok and it wouldn’t be my first choice personally. The aforementioned rnhp would be my pick if you had to go utopia and you would pair it with a bifrost 2, but it is indeed somewhat meh with the verite (also spatially the neve is quite good, it’s just on the smaller side of stage but with great depth to make up for it’s lack of width). The g111 would be a good compromise for the utopia and the vc so that might be the most will rounded option if you can’t swing a vio, and yes timbre is only average but you could improve that by pairing with a bf2 or ares ii dac. The lehmann is nice but admittedly nothing to write home about, but I haven’t tried that one with any zmf

I think if you were able to bump your amp budget to more around 1-1.5k, you would be able to get a lot more out of your cans (and keep a dac budget of around 700-1k)

Edit: so I forgot to talk about your dacs. So the modi multibit is fine, but honestly I would really want something higher end here overall

And another note, I think a few tube amps around 1k actually might meet your needs better than some of the solid state in that range for what you seem to be looking for (for both the utopia and the verite)

Thanks for your quick reply.

Considering I already own the Woo WA8, I’m not looking that much for tubes. Unless there will be a significant step-up going from the WA8 to an OTL Tube Amp, I’ll keep my WA8 considering its small footprint/transportability and it pairs quite decently with both the Utopia and VC to my ears. Is there a big difference between 1K OTL amps and the WA8? If so, which models could do it in your opinion?

As for the DAC, is there a significant step-up from the Modi Multibit to Bifrost 2?

I was mentioning the RNHP because I can actually get my hands on a mint unit for 250-300 USD shipped, so…

What would be your dream combo for the Utopia?


There are gains to be had for a similar price on a desktop tube amp, but the woo isn’t really that far behind some of the options I would mention at 1k so perhaps it’s more feasible to just stick with that. I did enjoy the vc + wa8, the utopia with the wa8 was ok to me personally for reference. I was honestly thinking something like a LTA MZ2 or a quicksilver headphone amp as those are fairly neutral, technical, and impressive while being fairly organic overall. But since you already have the wa8 it might not make sense as while they are an upgrade to the wa8, it’s not going to be leaps and bounds forward (but still a solid upgrade imo)

Absolutely imo, big technical upgrade, and signature wise it is a much more refined tuning as well. You get much more detail overall, more impressive spatial recreation, a big upgrade in microdynamics, more organic presentation and timbre, and overall a more neutral slightly warmer slightly relaxed signature compared to the modis more thickly colored sound

Ooooh honestly I would just go for that for sure and see what you think, should be an easy sell if you aren’t a fan at that price

I’m not actually sure, myself I’ve been using a totaldac d1 direct + d1 driver mk2 monos into a riviera aic-10, berkeley alpha reference 2 into an eddie current studio t, or a nagra hd dac + mps into dual mass kobo 394 ii commonly with the utopia

Great! Thanks a lot again.

I think I will give the RNHP a try and order a Bifrost 2 to pair up with. As you said, the RNHP will resell well if I do not like it…

In that case, following your comments, I think it could be better for me to wait a bit and bump my budget for a more expensive combo (Violectric w/ Soekris DAC could be great or maybe G111 w/Bifrost 2).

What about Violectric paired with a Bifrost 2?

Solid, as will the bifrost for selling well. The bifrost will also give a good boost in quality to your wa8 as well since the internal dac in the woo isn’t that great (but the amp itself is)

Possibly yeah it all depends on what you feel satisfied with now

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Just wondering if you know a little about Graham Slee amps…
A friend of mine had the chance to try the Ultra Linear Diamond Edition a few years ago and he was amazed by this small amp(in terms of soundstage, imaging, resolution and midrange timbre/smoothness).

So, just wondering if it could be a good SS alternative to pair with my Utopia and/or VC…

I have tried a ultra linear DE, but it was awhile ago and admittedly I can’t recall much about it anymore, so I really can’t say much. I did think it was good though, but that’s about all I remember

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What do you think of the Hugo 2 as a SS setup for the Utopia and VC? Considering its small footprint, it could be a good option to consider for me. Its DAC seems to be quite good too, so it can also be possible to use it feeding my WA8’s Amp…

Most combination DAC/HP units will wind up being a compromise either on the DAC or the HP. I’ve not listened to the Hugo 2 but the primary expectation people have of Chord products is their DAC. I’ll give you the same list of good all in one DAC/HP amp units @M0N gave me.

I have a Burson Conductor 3XR that I was hoping would be an acceptable all in one. The amp is great, and I’m genuinely loving it. I was looking for an upgrade from a Liquid Platinum; the DAC not so much. I was using a Holo Cyan DAC at the time. Given your HP starting point, IMO you’re throwing money away buying anything less than your current headphones demand.

Some of the all in ones I like that aren’t too bad and would be a step up from what you have are the canever zerouno dac-hpa, bricasti m3h, goldmund hda telos, questyle cma twelve master, neve rndac, t+a ha200

Thanks for your comments and sharing this list. I will take a look a it for sure.

I’ve read some (very) good comments on the Hugo 2 with both the VC and the Utopia. so that’s why I am considering it. The transportable option of the Hugo 2 is also to consider, but I’m looking mostly for a small-factor desktop option.
But following your comments (and a long-term update logic), I probably must go for a standalone DAC upgrade first (to be paired with my Woo WA8), then go for a better Tube Amp upgrade in the future (Eddie Current, Feliks Audio, or something like that).

I was looking for the Qutest, but considering the small price difference between it and the Hugo 2 (in the used marked there), I was considering going for the Hugo 2 (and probably ending using it as a DAC only anyway)…

You’re looking for portability which is something that I sort of skipped over. Yeah, that does limit things a bit for you.

Well, portability is a plus, but not a deal breaker since I’m looking for a great synergy with my cans first. The setup must be small though (not much space on my desktop…).

So it does have a solid dac for a portable, but personally not a fan amp wise. I know people do enjoy that pairing but personally I didn’t really see anything special in it. Still pretty limiting overall but idk

Wow leaking PMs I see lol

The zerouno isn’t a good match with the utopia, but the others are pretty decent all in ones


My apologies, figured you wouldn’t mind. lol

Thanks a lot again @M0N for your always honest point of view, it’s appreciated!
Thank you @db_Cooper too!

Apologies for being so somewhat picky on source gear for the utopia lol, but it’s just been my experiences with it where I’ve only been wowed by it on some of the really nice or very specific gear

Also you get the neve and bf2 yet? And if so, any thoughts?

I don’t, but I’m still going to hassle you about it lol

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No problem man, I know the Utopia can really scale up/change a lot with higher-end gear, so… And you have a very good experience with those higher-end stuff so your opinions/point of view are alway welcome!

I didn’t get the RNHP yet, but it’s still on my list. My recent readings led me to the Chord stuff (Qutest and Hugo 2). Despite the high praise for Chord products, I’ve never had the chance to demo any of their product. My recent findings suggest that their DACs could be a better sounding choice (more transparent and detailed, while quite natural sounding) than the Bf2 and other sub-1K$ DACs, especially when paired with most tube amps (like my WA8 and/or a future tube amp upgrade)… So, I’m thinking maybe bumping my DAC/Amp budget somewere around 2K$ and jump into the Chord train. I know their products seems to be quite hyped (and probably a bit overpriced too), but heh, I don’t know… Not easy to try to make my mind from a bunch of opinions on Head-Fi, it’s so subjective anyway. I’ll have to try it by myself to really know.

For a lot of people, the Hugo 2 will be a way better sounding DAC/Amp combo than Bf2/RNHP, especially for the VC. What do you think personally?

There are some interesting stuff on your « personal » list (lol), but all of them are way too big for my desktop space… :frowning: So, I have to look elsewere within a 2K$ budget for the short term.

The qutest is a bit of a step above the hugo 2 imo, but both are going to be higher tier than the sub 1k dacs out there. Generally the chord dacs lean more bright neutral, but good body and density, a bit softer at times, pronounced transients, somewhat organic

At 2k, for desktop gear, you do have a lot of options, but for portable gear you don’t have as many choices so the chord is mainly the pick in that range for portable gear (the hugo 2 can be had used around 1.3k)

I’d much rather have the bf2 + rnhp over the hugo 2 personally, I think that’s a bit higher preforming combo. The hugo 2 is a slight bit higher tier than the bf2 that is true, but the amp in the hugo 2 is a much larger limiting factor compared to the neve, so to me the bf2 + neve would be higher preforming

Yeah size will be a big problem, alot of the high end stuff is not really compact

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Ok, interesting…

Considering that there is not a huge price difference between a brand new Bf2 and a used Qutest, do you think the Qutest could pair even better than the Bf2 with the RNHP? Since I can get both the Qutest and the RNHP within my budget, I think it worth the consideration…

The Qutest is quite easy to find used, but it’s actually not the case for the Bf2 here in Canada…