Help me choose a new AMP (Arya and LCD X)

Hi guys. I’m tumbling down a well and I need your help to grab on to the sides. After trawling forums like this one, and watching approximately 10000 hours of reviews, comparisons and opinions, I decided that my (hopefully) endgame headphones would be the LCD X. I put in an order and waited (not especially patiently) for the store to get them in stock for me. In the meantime I decided to visit the place to take advantage of their headphone listening area to try out some other cans and gaze at some of the incredible equipment in there.

The first set of headphones that the guy happened to mention was the Arya. I asked him if I could demo them, and tried them alongside the LCD 3 and the HEDDphone. I fell in love a little bit - they have the detail and resolution of my DT1990s but without the scrunching-up-foil sharpness and brightness, and there’s an airy scale and verticality to their soundstage that makes them feel open and unimpeded. I bought them right then and there, despite having the LCD X on the way (which are also now sitting in front of me).

In the store, I demoed everything on a Benchmark DAC3 HGC, this one here: https://www.hifonix.co.uk/detail/benchmark-dac3-hgc-dac-with-headphone-amp?color=black

Getting the Arya home, I found that the sound was very similar to in-store, but not quite the same. The soundstage is a little smaller, but primarily, bass doesn’t hit with quite the same impact and SLAM that it did when I tried them on the Benchmark. I currently have a THX AAA 789 paired with a Modius, having upgraded from a Magni/Modi stack. I’m now reading all the things that people say about the 789 being analytical and dry to a fault, and I can hear it now - I love how detailed and precise everything sounds, but there’s a warmth and a fullness to the low-end that’s missing.

Now, I don’t particularly want to go out and spend 2500 big ones on a Benchmark DAC3, but nor do I want to stick with the 789 if I could do these headphones more justice by improving my source equipment. Where do I go from here as far as upgrading my AMP? The Topping A90/D90 stack is appealing, but I haven’t read enough to convince me that I won’t just be swapping one clean and clinical setup for another. I want a balanced set up that has power, precision, detail, but also that full, sweet warmth to the low-end. The Rebel Amp came to mind, but it doesn’t seem like that would have enough power to drive the Arya - they take medium gain at 12 o’clock on the THX. I’ve also thought about the RME ADI-2, but again, I don’t know if that’s not just another measurement king that’ll produce a clinical sound.

I’m open to ideas. I’ve got the Arya, LCD-X, DT1990, E-mu Teak, and the 58X Jubilee. Balanced cables from Periapt are on the way for the first two.

Any input would be appreciated. Thanks guys.

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For what you are after, you might really enjoy the violectric v280, it’s very punchy and impactful, and is neutral warmer with a wider and more spacious stage, a pretty nice pairing with the Arya from what I have found imo. DAC wise, I think trying to find a soekris dac1421 or 1541 is worthwhile in the used market, but they are coming out with new dacs soon from what I hear. The soekris has always been an excellent pairing with the violectric gear imo. The LCD x is pretty good on this setup as well

Another good pick is the headamp gsx mini if you wanted something detail forward with lots of control, although on the Arya it gets a bit bright for my tastes (not harsh or lifeless, but it is a brighter amp). With this amp if you went for it, personally I like the Holo cyan DAC with this because it helps to control the brightness a tad and inject a bit of warmth and width. I actually prefer the LCD x on this setup more because of how the LCD x reacts in the mid-range and treble where I think this setup helps it out

To maximize the Arya, I do think you would be spending in the 1.5-2k range for a dac and amp (look used if possible), but you could spend less if needed imo

I think this is an upgrade to the thx, and would give you the impact you want, but personally I thought for the price it was a disappointing combo. I think the d90 is more disappointing than the a90, but really I’m not inclined to recommend either at their current price. It also doesn’t quite match the sonic goals you are after imo

It can, but personally I think it could use a bit more behind it. But the rebelamp does match mostly what you are looking for. For the LCD x I haven’t heard this pairing yet, but how it reacted with other audeze I tried I think the LCD x would be very nice

I think something to consider on the cheaper side of things is the monolith liquid platinum imo, it’s got plenty of power and punch behind it, but also is warmer and thicker toned and helps control the treble of the Arya. This also is a more spacious amp that’s pretty smooth so it’s a bit more forgiving. If you grab a bifrost 2 with this, I think it would be very enjoyable if you wanted to relax the Arya, but this wouldn’t be the most resolution for the money (not lacking in resolution but not leading, you trade some resolution for other aspects mentioned above). The LCD x might get a bit darker on this setup depending on batch variation

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I can confirm the LCD-X with the GS-X mini (driven by bifrost 2 and modius). This has a warmer tone than the 789 with all the same resolving power without being as shouty about it. The 789 with the LCD-X only worked marginally well if you’re calming the 789 with the modius. I think the 789 sounds about as good as it can fed by that dac.

I haven’t heard the Arya but I imagine it would largely benefit from this setup the same as my clears have. Where it sounds improved, but I prefer it driven by my rnhp. It just doesn’t seem to respond as much as my planars do you the mini.

Regarding the ADI2, I didn’t find it appealing. I actually thought it sounded exactly like my modi3. Very clinical and dry, resolving af, but otherwise uninteresting.

Sounds like you’ve got some really great cans. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the lcd-x and Arya compare.

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Thanks so much for that comprehensive and thoughtful reply. I’d actually love to get a Bifrost - I love how it looks, and I’m very curious to see what a multi-bit DAC sounds like. You’ve given me some fantastic options here and I’m going to have to do a lot of research, but that’s what it’s all about, right? This is the fun bit. Investigating and selecting.

I notice the Soekris features a built-in amp. Would you definitely recommend using it solely as a DAC and pairing it with a separate amp?

I love the look of the GS-X Mini, although I definitely primarily want to bring a touch of warmth and fullness to the low end. The treble of the Arya is right where I want it to be as things stand - it seems to present detail and sparkle without ever sounding fatiguing. It does, however, get a bit shouty when I push the volume on the 789 - it takes on a bit of glare.

What would you say to the combination of the GS-X Mini and the Bifrost 2, given my objectives?

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Of course :+1:

I would recommend it as a dac only really, the amp in there is usable and ok, but def not on the same tier as everything else that’s been mentioned imo. I think if you wanted an all in one, the holo cyan with the headphone amp module is a better pick there or a questyle cma twelve imo

This does sound more inline with the violectric imo, but I don’t think the gsx would disappoint either

This is more the case of the thx amps than the headphones, I think you might like the gsx with the arya IF you get a smoother slightly warmer dac imo. The gsx is a brighter amp, but it’s not harsh nor unpleasant unless you don’t like a bit of elevated treble, the gsx has a pretty sweeter sounding treble response, although it is revealing so if you have very poorly recorded music it can be a bit much

I mean if that’s what you are wanting, I think it’s a pretty solid pairing. The reason I mention the holo cyan over the bifrost is mainly because it’s a bit warmer and less prominent in the treble in nos mode, also it’s more resolving and speedy which compliments the gsx, but I think you would be pretty happy with the bifrost 2. The bf2 is a neutral yet slightly warm and smooth dac, wider as well, it pairs well with most amps, really like it. Amp wise I think you will be very satisfied with the gsx, but I still get the feeling that you might prefer the violectric a tad more for it’s bass impact and slight warmth and spaciousness (but you could tilt the gsx closer to this with dac pairing)

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Thanks for your insight. I’m going to go dive into some GS-X Mini reviews.\

The Arya and the LCD-X are very different. When I first heard the Arya in the shop, I actually faulted them for being TOO natural. Everything just sounded the way it was supposed to sound - I think I was looking for headphones that would impose their own character and nuance in a way that elevated the music I was listening to. Then I started to A/B test them against other headphones, and I just became bewitched. They don’t ram detail into your head like the DT1990 Pros, but their representation of detail is somehow just as good, they’re just not at all forceful. Everything is there if you look for it. I wouldn’t really have been able to quantify what a ‘musical’ headphone is before, but that’s what they are. I put them on my girlfriend’s head and she said that she felt like she was in a movie theatre - there’s a sense of expansiveness and scale that I haven’t experienced on other headphones. I really do love them, I just want a shade more from them in low-end warmth and body.

To be perfectly honest, to my ears, the LCD-X out of the box sounded pretty weird. To me, on my equipment, it’s a very weighty, heavy, almost muffled-sounding headphone that I had to adjust to. Using Audirvana and applying the Reveal + plugin clarifies them a little bit, but I’d say that for me, as much as I do like them, there’s only one thing that they do better (well, differently) than the Arya and that’s the representation of bass. The Arya is like a professional boxer - bass feels precise and measured, hitting hard when it needs to but never overwhelming or encroaching on higher frequencies. The LCD-X is like an ancient subterranean god rolling over in his sleep - the precision is still here, but there’s this DEPTH that feels like being suspended over a dark chasm. It’s like that feeling you get when you look over a ledge at night - you can’t see how far the drop is, but you have this sense of it. It’s actually pretty amazing in that regard. A full, deep, daunting sense of scale. However, like I say, for me personally, swapping back to the Arya is like throwing a blanket off my head and opening the windows - everything is lighter, airier, more open… But the bass feel comparatively anaemic. Also, I don’t particularly want to have to EQ my headphones, and for me the LCD-X needs a bit of a tweak.

I told myself that I’d sell whichever I like the least, but I’m a long way from feeling like I want to lose the LCD-X. I want to experiment with different setups, cables etc, and then I’ll see. No rush.

Thanks again for your responses, guys.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think perhaps Audeze have not fixed their issues with driver variation and maybe I won the LCD-X lottery with my set :man_shrugging:. I don’t get a weird response or tone at all from mine. I’m comparing against focal clears so I assume I can rely on them as “normal” sounding

Or, my ears are broken in exactly the right way for these to sound right.

Either way, it sound like you fit the Arya better. I’m now tempted to find a pair to try out. But for me that always means just buying another thing as no one local is or should be open anytime soon.

Pulled the trigger on the Bifrost 2. Circling the GS-X Mini like a hungry shark.

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Ooh, I’ve gotta say, wow is it a beast and I’m just starting my relationship with it.

It is pretty crazy lol. I was pretty impressed when I got my gsx mk2 in for the first time, a beast for sure, the gsx mini carries alot of that through

I’m curious what my Xs will sound like on my 788/887 stack. Nothing I own is overly bright but I’ve found my Blon B20s smooth out on that stack compared to my modi 3/magni 3 stack.
I hope you find the combo that works for you and will be watching to see what you end up with.

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As someone who uses the GS X Mini and Bifrost 2 on a daily basis… I can 100% recommend this setup. In my current setup, I haven’t found something that I DON’T like running on this signal chain for headphones.

I will say if you’re looking for that true multibit experience, the Bifrost 2 is so smooth I thing you won’t honestly get the full experience but it is so pleasurable I can’t stop using it.

Waaah I’ve done it. Bifrost 2 and GS-X Mini both on the way. I’ll test it all against my current set-up, then I’ll probably end up selling the 789 and the Modius. Express shipping on both, so should have it all by next week. Hopefully my Arya is really going to sing now.

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:+1: very curious to see what you think of them, should be pretty sweet

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Never had issue with brighter cans on the mini, a plus is the extra head room you’ll have with Arya.

The Modius with the GS X mini is still pretty awesome. I’d say try it out when get the chance. Congrats! I’m really curious to see how the mini treats you.

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I’m in the UK, and the current lead time on the GS-X is 3-5 days. The BF2 should ship pretty swiftly - my Modius came in about 3 days all the way from California. If there’s anything worth knowing about the delivery experience from either company I’ll be sure to post it on here for the benefit of others ordering from the UK.

I might keep hold of the Modius for the comparison, and then maybe I’ll use it as a gaming DAC with consoles. I have it hooked up to an Xbox One X right now via optical.

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I found the mini shipped a bit slower than advertised. Took about two weeks to show up for me in California.

Also, I find the modius a better dac for gaming. It’s kind of ridiculous but for different uses it beats the bifrost imo

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Considering the amp took me 3 weeks to get, you’re lucky. As far as the modius, I can’t find where I like it better than the Bifrost 2 except connected to the THX amp.