Hi all, first post on the forum! I’m looking to upgrade my setup (which is quite basic at the moment) and was hoping for some recommendations. I currently have a paid of HD6XXs, Grado SR60, Bose noise canceling headphones for work and a decent selection of mid-range IEMs. I don’t own a DAC, AMP or any associated cables so really am starting from scratch.
I’m looking to buy a DAC/AMP, a pair of headphones (I was thinking planars but am open) and a nice pair of IEMs for walking around/work (not for working out). I’d like to spend as little as possible (naturally) but would be OK spending $400 on a DAC/AMP, $250 on a pair of headphones and $150 for a pair of IEMs. Would anyone be able to provide some recommendations?
I also had a couple of comments/questions below.
- For a DAC/AMP, is it worth buying separately or would a combo work OK for the mid-tier headphones that I have?
I’ve been looking at the IFI Zen DAC v2, Schiit Magni/Heresy/IEMagni and Modi, Schiit Magnius and Modius, Schiit IEMagni, AAA One or 789 with another DAC or something from Geshelli or JDS Labs but am open to anything you recommend.
Is it worth running headphones balanced? For the headphones I have or would buy, would it add a lot of value or just expense?
Are planar headphones a good next option given I have the 6xx? I was looking at HiFiMan but again am open to anything.
On the IEMs, I’m really stuck. So whatever you think for comfort and quality sound, I’m open to.
Sorry for the long post and let me know if you need more information! Thanks in advance.
I’ll preface by saying that you should probably not be spending more on electronics than the headphones, unless you’re buying a Dave for your Diana Phi!
A combo is fine, as long as it is well executed. Topping DX3 Pro+ is an excellent choice. The Zen DAC is not amazingly well engineered, but is decent if you’re super afraid of the placebo “clinical sound” of Topping gear.
Not unless you really need the power
Something with nice bass extension would be good to compliment the HD6XX. Planars can have really nice bass, but so do DD’s
I’m not sure I see the justification for another set of IEMs. At $150 they’ll be in the same league as your existing mid tier ones. Much better to bring the headphone budget up imo.
I’d look at $300 max for the amp and dac, and put the remaining $500 towards headphones. I’d look at HarmonicDyne, Dan Clark Audio, Hifiman, and Focal in that price range
A DAC/Amp would be fine, but it does handicap you a bit, as you can’t upgrade just one component.
For a very economic starting point, I would recommend a Monoprice Liquid Spark DAC and Liquid Spark amp. Not sure how the 6XX’s would do on this little fella, but it really is a great starting point. I still have mine, but it’s in the office now.
You don’t “need” to run anything balanced at this time.
I don’t do IEM’s.
Boxing week is week after next. You will likely see some screaming deals. My favourite would be Focal Elex’s for $549.00.
T60 Argons are great and pretty affordable, but the wait is crazy and it would take All of the Liquid Spark amp.
There has NEVER been a better time to get into the hobby. Selection is incredible and there are some very nice headphones that are relatively affordable.
Happy hunting and feel free to ask more questions! But also do lots of reading. Between this place and Head-Fi you can learn a Ton of stuff.
Any sound signature your preferred or if your not sure what kind of music do you hear ?
Otherwise for your 6xx the magni/modi stack or Shane’s liquid spark stack should be enough but if you want to get the most out of your Sennheisers mostl would also recommend a tube amp for a different kind of sound
If you already have headphones that you like, I could imagine keeping the headphones you have and going for like, a Schiit Asgard amp and a Schiit Modi Multibit DAC or an Allo Revolution DAC for the $400 + $250 that you were looking at spending.
Funnily enough, I kinda like the Final Audio E3000 as a pretty cheap IEM option and it comes with great eartips, though a lot of people would likely recommend the Moondrop Aria in this spot. (I personally didn’t love the Aria, but people generally do quite like it.)
Also, welcome to the forum!
what kind of music do you listen to? this will give us an idea of what kind of sound you like and what DAC / AMP will accentuate them.
if you like warm sound, then the Zen DAC v2 would be an excellent choice. I have the v1 and LOVE IT!!!
I think the Modius DAC and the Asgard 3 amp are neutral with a lean on the warmish side while the Magnius is more neutral leaning on the cool side. the Asgard 3 operates better as a amp than a DAC / Amp if you install the optional DAC card. The Modius is balanced, but the Asgard 3 has it’s SE so well done that I believe the consensus is it still sounds better.
Balanced doesn’t always mean it’s better than SE. there can be crap jobs for balanced output as there can be awesome jobs for SE output and the Asgard 3 is one of those and shines brightly.
I honestly want to get a Schiit stack with the Modius / Asgard 3 / Lyr, Magnius and the Lokius. maybe throw in the new Jot as it can output both headphone and speaker out simultaneously. this allows the nifty setup of listingi to something on your headphone while having your subs give you the down low to make your seat rumble!
Thank you all for the recommendations. In terms of sound signature I prefer…frankly I don’t know. I’ve never used a DAC/AMP before (not even tested one) so I’m not sure what I would like.
When I’m working (which is most of the time I’m listening to music), something without vocals (primarily classical/orchestral/Hans Zimmer movie soundtracks and EDM). When I’m listening for pleasure, I like Rock and Alternative (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, 3 Doors Down, REM, the Cranberries, etc.) and some popular music (primarily more vocal stuff like Ed Sheeran, Adele, and others). I’m not big into Rap and R&B and don’t really like country.
In terms of what I think I want: I don’t want something fatiguing (want to be able to listen comfortably for long periods of time) and would prefer something that makes my music sound better and adds something to it rather than being perfectly accurate as I’m not looking to analyze my music but enjoy it. I don’t care about how well something measures or if it’s not true to the recording as much as I enjoy listening to the music and it’s comfortable for long periods of time. I have no musical training or knowledge so want something powerful enough that I can grow with but doesn’t need to be for studio use.
Given your tastes something with nice timbre and good mids performance is what I would prefer for the music you listen to. for an amp I would go with an asgard 3 rock a modi 3+/liquid spark DAC/atom DAC. honestly any of the $100 DACs will do just great. this should total at $350 \
asgard is great as it has a nice warm sound and a nice amount of power for powering basically anything you want there are only a few headphones this thing cant power.
Headphones wise. I think the HD 6XX or , DT880 600 are perfect . 6xx better for mids, and the 880 tend to perform better for staging. I prefer the 880 with stuff like modern indie rock, metal , hip hop, and orchestral music where there is a lot of brass or deep sounding percussion like a timpani. the 6xx is great warm , better timbre, more intimate sounding, worse staging performance, but lush great sounding mids and is my first pick when it comes to vocals, and a lot of classic rock.
this is all preference though of course.
other options are the AKG k712, very neutral , wide soundstage headphone and honestly would prefer this headphone over the other 2 for orchestral and soundtracks. EDM is hard for me to cover cause I dont really listen to it. but as an all arounder I think you are pretty good to use any of these 3 especially equipped with a nicer powerful amp like a asgard. Asgard I find is also quite enough for IEMs and low gain on it is pretty great for the use case.
amps to avoid for me are the THX amps, IEmagni, magnius, and Heresy. as their sound signatures dont really fit my personal preference, tend to lean super flat or bright.
IEMS are not my strong suit but this is probably where you can tackle EDM as the closed nature fo an IEM will lend it to have a nicer deeper bass response than a open back headphone,