I recently acquired a pair of Hifiman Arya Stealth headphones and I am looking to upgrade my current amp/DAC setup, which is a K5 Pro. At the moment, I am considering purchasing the Topping L30 MK2/E30 stack. Additionally, I am contemplating whether it would be worthwhile to save up a bit more money and invest in the Xduoo TA-22 instead. Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions?
I have the Arya Stealth, but I have not tried it on the amps/dacs you listed. Someone in the Xduoo TA-22 thread did share their thoughts on the pairing though 🔷 xDuoo TA-22 Dac Amp - #7 by hit_the_right_note
With mine I have only powered them with the Burson Soloist 3XP, Topping L70, and Schiit Asgard 3 connected to either a SMSL SU-9 or Schiit Bifrost 2/64 (preferred DAC). The L70 gets the job done, but a class A amp like the Soloist is more pleasing to my ears. Everyone hears things differently so always take suggestions with a grain of salt. Good luck to you, and enjoy your new headphones.
Just a suggestion, but I would give some thought on changing out the stock cable when you get the chance. First get your Amp & DAC selection squared away first. Cables do make a difference in my opinion, but not as much as a AMP and/or DAC upgrade. This is the one I am using for my pair:
While i havent tried the Arya stealth specifically (i have tried the hifiman Ananda 2022 and i own a edition XS) but in general hifiman’s planner like power, they dont need it but they perform better on more powerful amps. I’ve tried my Xs and an Ananda i borrowed from a friend on both my old amp, a Topping A50s and on my current one the A90D, and there was a noticeable improvement when using the A90D (both running balanced).
Arya stealth will also benefit from a little more power to a point. With the Arya is that they scale with the quality of the equipment you power/feed them with. This is not to say that they won’t sound good on more affordable equipment, but that they will sound different and improve as you scale up the equipment.
I am assuming that OP’s budget might be in like the $500 dollar though for dac + amp since they talk about saving up a bit to get the xduoo which is around that price. Honestly I have not owned or got an xduoo product that didn’t break on me after a short period of time so I just personally would not recommend them from my experience. I only have bought 2 products from them being the link balance and a tube amp so small sample size so your results may vary. I don’t got an arya with me rn but imma base my recommendations based on some set ups I tried and my experiences with planars.
Setup 1: Around like 500 if on sale or willing to buy used, More for if you want a warmer presentation
Monolith Liquid platinum plus an ifi zen dac is a decent combo. The MLP was on sale for like $288 or $278 if you got the ebay offer and zen dac can come in at around $200 or less leaving some money for some cables. Keeps a surprising amount of bass without it being too sloppy of a sound and highs are still there although not as clear. If you do some mods to it the highs come back more without it being too fatiguing.
Setup 2: Solid state headphone set up
The jotunheim 2 is pretty good at bass though treble can be peaky though not as much as better measuring Topping, Smsl, THX gear. This is my personal main headphone amp so i am kinda biases toward it. Nice slam to it without the bass getting too floppy. Has the option of becoming an all in 1 though not the greatest dac. If you go used you can find under 400 bucks easily for all in one. Is around 500 not including shipping for a new one.
Set up 3: Just go for full power and use a speaker amp
When it comes to power its just way cheaper to get a speaker amp and carefully run it. Something like a Topping speaker amp should do fine but be careful of blowing the headphones out. Pair with a dac of your choice, more topping stuff for the more cold and analytical sound or ifi for a slightly more warm one. Honestly one of my favorite setups I heard with planars was with a Topping Pa5
These set ups should do fine with planars though they might not be the best things with other things like sensitive IEMs without attenuators or just not with the speaker set up as it is powerful. If you just want a more “clean” sound then just go with a topping product with a true balanced out like the L70 or A90 that were recommended above. Not my preference but everybody has different tastes and ears
I can buy the a90d and then use my k5 pro as a dac for a bit until I can afford a better dac. Are there any common negatives about the a90d? I was looking at the schiit jotunhyme 2 also but I have seen mixed opinions with some loving and some not so much. I can also see that the a90 has better performance stats wise but not to sure how much that matters.
Both the A90d and the L70 can be a little dry sounding, but that is a personal preference thing. Schiit amps in general have a house sound that you either love or hate. I got a lot of enjoyment out of my Asgard 3 with several of my headphones, and the Arya does not sound bad with it either. The Jotunheim 2 has more power than the Asgard 3 out of its balanced jack (4pin xlr) so it will most likely give the Arya a little more bass presence vs a lower powered option. Both of those amps are class A/B with a bias in class A for the first few 100 mW of power used. In the end the mixed reviews would come down to personal preference along with use case.
The A90d does indeed have a bit more power than the Jotunheim 2, but the implementation & tech they use to achieve the rated power will effect how you perceive it. Not the best explanation I know, but that is the best I can come up with.
It will all come down to your preferences in sound. If you can purchase the amp from a retailer with a good return policy that might be the way to go. This would allow you to return it if you find that it is not working out for you. You have the right idea though regarding upgrade path: Headphone>Amp>DAC.
If you go for either the A90d or the Jotunheim 2 you will need a new cable for your Arya as those amps’ max power is through their balanced output. You can use a cable that terminates in a 4pin XLR for both amps or if you go with the A90d it also has a 4.4mm connection as well.
Edit: not saying that either is a bad choice though. Like I have noted before I own a Topping L70 which is in some ways is a baby brother to the A90d. It is a decent amp, but I just happen to prefer class A and class A/B amps from the likes of Burson and Schiit. Both the A90d and the Jotunheim 2 would be a nice step up from what you have now.
I wouldn’t say “Dry”, maybe overly clean but like you said its a taste thing
I don’t thing the E30/L30 combo is going to provide a worth while upgrade. If you like the Topping sound signature (clean, linear) then I would suggest E50 + A30 Pro. If you can find a deal in used section that would be even better. In the future, you can invest in a power supply like iPowerX or an LPS for a small improvement in sound.
Personally, I like the EF400 more, so considering that HiFiMan is going to launch the EF600 soon, there might be some EF400 listings in used categories and there are frequent price cuts to the EF400 on official HiFiMan store.
The Arya does sound good with multibit and R2R DACs, so that AIO unit would make a decent pairing if they don’t want to go with separates.
The only downside is that it is USB only.
The DAC pairing does help a bit with the L70. Sounds better with Multibit (Bifrost 2/64) vs Delta-Sigma (SMSL SU-9). Something like a Modi Multibit 2 would be a less expensive option for a DAC upgrade if they go with the L70 or A90d (provided that is the sound they are looking for).