Help me "step up' with my desktop audio setup

Hi guys. Currently I’m running HD6XX through SoundBlaster X G6 (bought cheap used) hooked to my PC and listening to flacs, Spotify & Tidal as well as general use for movies, games etc. Went to a friend’s friend house last month and heard his Audeze LCD4 with Topping A90/D90 stack and I was like whoaaa…holy balls! I’m on the hunt since, researching how I can get that “whoaa” moment but cheaper than his setup but a proper step up from my current setup.


  1. Hifiman Sundara (used): $240
  2. Audeze LCD2C (used): $480


  1. Fiio K9 Pro
  2. SMSL SH-9/SU-9n stack
  3. iFi Zen Dac Signature V2 stack (HFM/6XX)

The amp/dac prices are almost similar so either one would fit my budget (between $700-$800). I listen to rock/metal, classical, female jazz & soundtracks mostly. Prefer to have a balanced out for headphones. Any thoughts on the above list or any other recommendations I should consider?

Thanks guys! :slight_smile:

start with an amp. hd6xx are very capable headphones. the soundblaster is good for low impedance headphones, not so well with stuff like the hd6xx’s.

after that, look into alternative headphones. but i think you can get a woaaah moment out of your current headphones with a better amp.


Your headphone is a perenial favorite. You just need to pair it with a good amp that will maximize the synergy. I’d suggest you look for a Hagerman Tuba or if you’re adventurous, build yourself a Bottle Head Crack w/Speedball option. Use a Geshelli labs DAC and you’ll have a very capable and FUN system to rival and IMO, exceed your friend’s for listening enjoyment long term.


Thanks man. So you’re saying use the X6 as DAC and pair an amp with it or go fully new DAC/Amp? I might also consider the likes of Topping A30/D30 or the DX7 Pro as an AIO.

The reason I was thinking of getting the Audeze or Hifiman because its planars. The LCD4 that I tested have loads of details & separation which I love, so hoping to get the same with a lower priced setup. The 6XX should be alright with relaxing, warm listening I guess. So I’d like to try something different. :slight_smile:

i would get a new dac as well tbh. but for sure, an amp. if you dont wanna break the bank on the senn’s, i totally understand. get a little dot mk2 for it at least. 150$ and will make them sound better. leaves plenty for a clinical setup. not my forte, i will let others chime in on that front. i run tubes and warm signatures :slightly_smiling_face:

I wouldn’t be expecting miracles with a new dac/amp. The Soundblaster is not terrible, not perfect. The difference you are perceiving is the frequency responses of the 2 headphones. I would say the Sennheiser is closer to neutral/reference than the Audeze. I would say you can get close to a similar frequency response (if that is your desire) by EQing the Sennheisers.

Why do you want balanced output?

You could use your G6 as a DAC for the beginning and get a capable amp to use for future HP purchases, like an Asgard 3 as an example, because that Soundblaster will struggle with your 6xx an it’s imo not Designed for current hungry planars
But if you want to get the most out of your 6xx an otl tube amp is the go to choice :wink:
For rock metal the audeze would be a good HP but many would say EQ is required to get the most out of them XD
For jazz and soundtracks the Sundara is an all-around good pick, you also could try the edition xs if you like a bit more soundstage and the egg shaped HP do fit your head better, but for that an tryout would be required :confused:

I don’t like some of the advice to NOT buy new headphones, and that you will reinvent the wheel (6xx) via a new chain. At the same time, I would update not hesitate your chain. Though I often recommend separates and some of the switch choices on the front are ill-designed, something about the K9 Pro design I like a lot. I think it makes sense to grab a planar based on your experience as well.

Back to the headphones, a question: Did your friend run EQ on his LCD-4? Also, do you use EQ?

well, its there and doesn’t cost more, why not? :slight_smile: it doesn’t make it worse right, going balanced?

I’m not sure if he uses EQ, I listen for about 5 minutes. I don’t really EQ but I guess the Creative software does have an EQ section. Would try it, never thought of that thanks :slight_smile:

I did recently looked at Harmonicdyne Zeus…looks promising but a dynamic. I really want to try a planar,

Yeah, I have no problem getting the Edition XS or Sundara even, but the egg shape does throw me off since I have a small head hahaa. I never had a chance to try em on, thats why I’m looking the Sundara or maybe other round shape planars.

I ask to determine if you liked the stock tuning of the Audeze. It’s a headphone that many EQ because of a somewhat “different” factory tuning. EQ is free if you’re using a PC.

Also, that Audeze is the LCD-2 Classic, correct? Not the LCD-2 Closed?

You’re paying for it, one way or another. If you need the power, makes sense.

I’d just get a basic stack, like a magni modi, topping l30/e30, liquid spark, whatever and a good headphone, maybe that used lcd 2, an edition xs or an elex… keep the 6xx too imo

I think the soundblaster isn’t even that bad of a DAC but I think the amp is a bit underpowered even for the 6xx, but yeah definitely don’t spend more on the source than the headphones, people massively overrate the impact of the source for some reason…

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