iFi vs Topping Sound

So I’m back into audiophilia, this time with newly-acquired ATH-AD2000X & DT 1770 Pro’s.

I picked up a used Zen Dac V1, figuring that I had liked the Hip Dac before and it could be good to bring some low-end to the AD2000X. However, while the warmth was certainly there on both cans, the detail wasn’t. Not much sparkle, and a good amount of veil.

So I just got the DX3 pro+ in, and there is that treble detail and sparkle and clarity I was missing. However, now I am missing that classic iFi warm low-end, velvet mids, and soundstage width.

Is it just me hearing these clear differences? I like the feature set of the Topping more, but would I be a good candidate for a tube amp to pair with the DX3 pro+ or should I be looking elsewhere?

IMO It’s less the dac part, its more the amps that cause the differences you are hearing.
i’d say try maybe buying an IFI zen Can (the dedicated amp), pair it with both the IFI Zen dac and the topping and see how you like it, personally i have my zen stack (DAC + Can) and i love it on most of my headphones

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That could be true, I guess that is getting to the heart of my question here, have you tried a tube amp and has it had a similar effect to the sound as a Zen stack?

Ive got fairly limited experience with tube ( I own hybrid - Loxji P20 with some after market tubes), and it is nice, but the IFI sounds different - also you can toggle bass boss or 3d, unlike a tube.

Keep in mind that I own a fair amount of planar headphones (which dont like tubes) so it doesnt get as much usage as my IFI

i have a zen dac v1, bottlehead crack speedball, schiit lyr3.

listening with sennheiser hd600’s and t60rp argons:

the ifi zen dac sounds decent with them. they get plenty loud with both. the argons handle the bass boost much better than the 600’s. the 600’s get muddy with some tracks as it makes it to much bass for the 600 drivers to handle. the bass in general isnt well defined with the 600’s and the zen dac v1. could be that the amp is kinda weak for 300ohm loads. the mids are silky smooth with both sets of cans. highs are less detailed then the other 2 amps. but makes for very easy listening over time.

the bottlehead crack speedball only works with the senn’s as the argons are to low of impedance. but there are a million reviews on the combo. compared to the zen dac, it is better just about across the board. the lower mids and middle/upper bass region has a much warmer and impactful sound on the ifi. but its cleaner on the bottlehead. soundstage is wider on the bottlehead as well, but not by all the much.

the lyr3 is a tube hybrid in case you are not familiar. and i think something along these lines might be what you are after. now, it does cost the most of the 3, but not that much more then my modded bottlehead. it has the least warmth. but it works so well with both cans. and the warmth is there, its just not quite to the levels of the 2 above. the soundstage is huge. the 600’s sound amazing on it. the detail is great with it without being harsh at all. the bass is slightly stronger on it then the bottlehead, but not as much as the ifi with bass boost. but it is much much much cleaner and faster then either of the other 2. the mids are not as boosted as on the ifi or the bottlehead, but there is some warmth to them. and vocals sound silky smooth with either.

do either of them or my cheap chifi sound close to the ifi? yes and no. the lyr3, not really that much at all. but i do feel like its a more critical listening version of the ifi warmth. as far as the bottlehead, honestly they share a lot of the same traits. just not nearly as strong of bass as the ifi with bass boost. w/o bass boost they sound a lot closer. the bottlehead is superior, don’t get me wrong, but they share a lot of the same flavor. a little bit of eq with a tube amp i think could probably get you basically the same results.

and as far the ifi zen can. its a fine amp. the soundstage is not the widest on the planet, or really even that far up the list in its price point. but it does have the ifi house sound. its pretty much a beefier version of the zen dac amp.

Gotcha, my Nighthawks just got delivered so I guess I’ve got all dynamics. Strange since before my break I had only owned planars (T50 Argons & LCD-i4).

I do wonder if a Zen Can + DX3 would combine both aspects I love, possibly more watered down though.

I guess the answer perhaps is trying tubes or a tube hybrid. Perhaps the answer is also to simply own the most transparent source gear at an appropriate price and let the headphones speak for themselves.

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the burr brown chip in the zen dac is a very musical and warm toned chip. i would suggest looking at hybrids or solid states to pair with it. if the bass is lite, you can eq it a little. the bass boost is a nice button, but just saves you from having to eq. everything else you love about it is the dac and not the amp. the amp is just a meh amp realistically. decent for just about everything, excels with only high efficiency.

Have you tried the Zen Can? I wonder if not having the complete stack makes a noticeable difference, besides just more power.

Ive tried the Can on a none-ifi dac (topping E30), didnt hear much of a dffierence.
One thing to keep in mind that you can run it as a balanced stack (the Zen dac has a 4.4 out - and the Zen Can has a 4.4 in), which gives you a little more power (meaning helpful if you dont want to raise the gain but still have enough power - have yet to find a headphone that needed more the 3/4)

I personally agree with Zeos on this, in the sub 1000$ range Dacs dont sound all that different (they might in certain cases but i havent found any myself), you mostly pay for features

Yeah I think I’m going to stick with the DX3 for the features (information display, BT if I need it), but something like a Gryphon might be worth looking into for me for a portable solution.

i disagree. my zen dac, sprout100, schiit modi 3, and sony strdh590 all sound different to me. but to each their own.

Looking into this topic more, I wonder if something like a Bifrost 2 + Asgard 3 combo would be similar in flavor to the ifi products, while being USA made. Geshelli products intrigue me but I’m not sure if neutral is what I am going for, as the Zen Dac won out over the DX3pro+ for me.

Source equipment is massively overrated, a pad swap will do 1000% bigger change than any dac

I can hear a noticeable difference, and I am aware of pad swapping and have already done so with the AD2000X’s