I got my first ever audiophile grade headphones last Monday. (Sundara + Dragonfly Red and ifi hip-dac for warmer sound)
I was expecting a good improvement in sound quality but I was not expecting that the improvement would completely spoil everything else. The more I listen to music with the Sundara the more I notice the lack of detail in my Astro A50 gaming headset.
This poses a problem. The Astro A50 are not bad for what they are but now…they sound like garbage in my ears and certainly not worth the cost.
I have a home theater system that is mid-range. Sounded pretty nice. But now…well the same. I rather use my new headphones all the time.
So I have some questions.
If I understand correctly, the Sundara plus dacs like ifi hip-dac and Dragonfly Red are considered to be entry-mid level stuff right?
Is there such a big difference between the entry level stuff and say something like the Sennheiser HD 820?
Same for amps and dacs. Will I notice a big difference if I upgrade from the hip-dac and Dragonfly Red to a more expensive and powerful dedicated desktop amp? Is it worth it? (i’m considering it as everyone seems to have a desktop amps in here)
And lastly, is switching from mid-range home theater speakers to hi-fi speakers a difference as huge as what I notice when switching from a gaming headset like the A50 to the Sundara?
Sorry for so many question but I really didn’t expect such a big difference. I fear that I’ll be starting to spend a lot more money just to get a consistent experience across my headphones, my TV speakers and IEMs.
Well glad you are enjoying them lol? It’s a pretty nice setup but yes it is pretty revealing which can be both good and bad lol
I would say midrange to entry midrange
Yes, but the bang for buck aspect really decreases, but the value is in what the listener thinks here, it might be worth to some and not to others, as you listen to higher end stuff how you perceive value will change
It depends on the headphone, but I do think that if you got something like an asgard 3 and used your dragonfly red as a dac, it would be pretty sweet, but it can scale above that. But it really does depend on the headphones for what amp and dac to go with, when you get into the higher end most headphones are more picky and want higher quality electronics, and also pairing is important for a quality sound
At the low end, corners are cut and materials are cheaper. All done to save those extra 50 cents of the $70 bill of materials to get the thing made for 15 and on the shelf for 150 (50% markup is not unusual, R&D, shipping, distributors, etc. quickly add up).
When budget for a product is “of minor concern”, you can make parts from cast aluminium instead of plastic. Tolerances get tighter and so on. The pure sound quality surely gets a lift, the fit and finish take of much quicker though.
Some people would say they prefer entry level to the 820. The 820 is pretty polarizing with most reviews I’ve read not being crazy about it. But, I like the 800S and that’s also pretty hit or miss depending on the reviewer.
It depends on your definition of entry level and mid-fi.
I went on a wicked Binge for 12 months and bought Lots of sale and used merchandise looking for the sweet sound. What I found was a LOT of disappointment.
In 2020, I bought a real tube amp, a really nice hybrid amp and a set of Elex headphones. For me this is high end gear at $1K each. These are mind blowing pieces of equipment and end game, for me. As was the bill.
I have always said “you get what you pay for” as a consumer and a retailer. But I chickened out when it came to audio gear. I kept buying inferior products for $200, $300 and $400 because I thought $1k was crazy money for a single piece of gear. Especially for an unemployed guy.
But it was all for naught as I ended up reselling all those products (and still am), while being very careful to lose money on every single transaction.
If I could go back a year, I would buy the Elex’s. Then six months later I would look for a sale on the Liquid Platinum. And this spring I would have tried the real tube amp route. I would have been so happy and saved a ton of disappointment and hassle.
Trying a different take.
Yes there is better higher end gear, price differences tend to get larger and larger to realize obvious differences. Value is in the eye of the beholder.
If you upgrade things to asymmetrically there will be a weak link in the chain that holds other things back.
You don’t run a $5K Abyss 1266 Phi TC off a $100 Schiit Heresy.
There is no point buying a Lampizator DAC to feed a $100 amp and headphone.
Generally the most audible differences are in the transducers, i.e. Headphones, Speakers or Phono Cartridges.
So start by finding what you like there.
Then worry about the rest of the chain.
No, no, of course not, that’s an incredibly dumb setup, but it does fall into the “why not if I have it type of thing lol”. Clearly it was extremely helpful to do something like this when I was trying out the topping e30
There will always be something newer, bigger, better. Sound quality is a subjective experience so be careful whichever direction you chose to go. Have a deep wallet and desire to chase your goals to the end. Time is your friend and “good enough” will get you through many hours of music and movies till you can find that elusive piece…remember that.
To take a different angle, IME, some headphones under $400.00 has worked well for me. I love my Meze 99 Classic’s and the Sundara’s have been a revelation. The jury is still out on the Fostex TH-610’s.
Absolute bargains are Senn HD58X headphones and the Liquid Spark amp.
Appreciate your answers. This is pretty revealing to me.
The sound quality and experience is so good that for me its almost as good if not better than having the musicians playing right in front of you.
I will surely take on all the advice in here. And for now enjoy what I got until I can really step up.
From what I can tell, it will be hard to go back to entry once you go higher and higher.
I think my next step is to buy a decent desktop amp.
I see a lot of people recommend the Asgard 3. Is it the best desktop amp out there for something like the Sundara? Regarding my tastes in music, for some reason I’m equally enjoying the colder Dragonfly Red and the warmer ifi hip-dac. So I’m no longer worried if an amp is a bit more warm or neutral.
Nowadays, what is considered to best desktop amp for headphones at the level of the Sundara?
I think the asgard 3 will give you more control over the headphones and with more impact, you can use your dragonfly as the dac for it if you wanted too. It would be a different experience, the a3 is more balanced and works well at providing power for the sundara. Another good option at a similar price range might be the jds labs El amp ii, which is a tad warmer and smoother and sweeter sounding imo, both are great
I mean personally I would only spend around up to 250 on a headphone amp for the sundara, as after that imo I think the money would be better put into a higher end headphone