Lost in my headphone journey. Any advice?

So I’ve been getting really into headphones over the last few months and have really grown to appreciate the hobby. Dipped my toes in the water with the Sennheiser HD 560s, got the Hifiman Sundaras a little bit later, and then decided to properly punish my wallet by picking up the Audeze LCD-2’s (2020 ver.), Currently running them off my Sennheiser GSX 1000 (I realize this isn’t a super ideal dac/amp setup, am working on it lol will probably go with the Schiit Jotunheim 2) and I want to make my way closer to endgame but I don’t really have a plan. I don’t want to give in to the temptation to “collect” headphones, I want everything I have to fill a niche/have certain benefits that my other cans don’t. Definately don’t want to do any sidegrading.

So going a little more into that, I will probably sell the 560s. They are great headphones but honestly the Sundaras have a very similar tonality and do almost everything better in my opinion and are very comfortable to me so I don’t see a purpose in keeping them. I like having a decently wide nuetral headphone that I can use as an allrounder.

The LCD 2’s are more for listening sessions, they do great at rock and electronic music that the sundaras really have a hard time with, They have much better bass and are very exciting/engaging. Their soundstage is a bit smaller and they basically require EQ since the factory tuning is so wacky, but I love them for a warm pleasing and intimate experience.

I think what I’m looking for now is something that will blow me away from a soundstage perspective. I think that’s a big category none of my headphones are crazy good at. I know things like the 800s or the Aryas probably come to mind, but does the performance gain really justify the price I’d be spending or are there any options that will get me close to that kind of performance for less money?

Just feeling kind of aimless right now and definitely don’t want to spend ridiculous money on cans that are sidegrades or don’t really compliment what I already have or don’t offer that much of an improvement.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


hey Jak! first things first, welcome to HFG! secondly…with audio, it’s not the destination it’s the trip. it’s about what you learn and get to experience as you try all the different types of equipment out there.

You’ve got some solid headphones so I would say the next thing to look as is getting a proper sound chain. what kind of music do you like to listen too? how much are you open to spending separate DAC and Amp? are you okay with buying used?

1 Like

I agree with Marzipan! Your sundaras and LCDs will definitely benefit from a chain upgrade.
After that I think you would be looking at something like a focal clear or even a meze 109 for a different sound than what you have. The 109 will be a little similar to the LCD but the timber will be more natural. The clear will be a very dynamic/energetic sound that is kind of like turning a Sennheiser up to 11.
Speaking of senny the 800s would be probably the best for wide soundstage but can at times sound artificial because it is so wide sounding.
Uff yeah definitely tough to recommend a specific way to go since you have a solid base to start with.

1 Like

I was wondering about the Focal clear since you can get them for such a great deal right now with them being discontinued, I have my LCD 2’s EQ’d to get rid of the recessed spots in the mids and treble so post EQ they’re actually pretty dynamic and energetic, especially for a planar. I was somewhat concerned I might be cannibalizing them a bit if I got the Clear. Do u think the clear might be a good fit tho if I replace the 560s with them and use them more of like a daily driver?

I definitely think a person can be happy with a clear as a daily driver. It’ll be like a grown up version of the 560 so it’ll sound familiar in that sense.


Thank you Marzipan! On the DAC question, I was going to get the built-in DAC option for the Jotunheim (the ES9028, they have a multibit option as well but I don’t think its available anymore) This is mostly because I kind of didn’t want to deal with the cable management of having a stack, but if it’s really that much of a difference to have an external vs. internal DAC, I could do like a Schiit modius or something. If you have suggestions for an amp that might be a better fit, (especially for the LCD2) I’d love to hear them I just was interested in the Jotunheim bc they seem solid and are crazy powerful for the price and would be able to run anything I could ever possibly plug into them. I wouldn’t really consider buying headphones used unless it’s from a company with a good rep for durability like sennheiser or beyerdynamic, but I’m much more open to buying amps/dacs used.

As far as music, I’m a little all over the place. I’d say most commonly soundtracks/orchestral stuff and 70’s and 80’s rock, a lot of stuff with acoustic guitar. I also listen to a little bit of jazz and some synth/electronic music.

I may get pelted with rocks and garbage for this, but I would sell the 560s and the Sundara and get a HiFiMan Edition XS for $500.

The XS does just about everything better than the Sundara or the 560s. It’s a can that works well with nearly every musical genre, unlike the Sundara. It’s a far more engaging can than the 560s, which is accurate other than the treble spike but clinical and sterile. The XS has very good soundstage and solid imaging, while having more energetic bass than the 560s or the Sundara.

Then you can take the extra $500 you would have spent on a $1,000 headphone and start upgrading your DAC and amp.

You’ll struggle to find a better value at less than $1,000 in this hobby than the Edition XS. It’s a fine headphone and an insane value.


hey Jak, the units are convenient, but having dedicated units for each is almost always the better choice. for example, the Bifrost (latest version) with the Jot is an excellent stack. it might sound funny, but the Bifrost with the Asgard is really good. The SE on the Asgard is said to be as good as the balanced on the Jot, which makes it redundant. the Jot does have an interesting feature to consider still though…you can output while the headphones are live, so you could connect a powered sub for extra feedback / immersion to bass heavy audio.

and before you jump right to the Clear, try out the Celestee and Radiance…at least demo and see what y ou think as you go up to the Clear.


Except for the headband. I totally agree the XS is great for the money, just didn’t think they were that big of a step above the sundara.

1 Like

I have honestly seriously considered this. You think it would be a noticable performance increase if I went for the XS? I have a friend that said he’d buy the Sundaras off me so I might actually do that. How do you rate it comfort-wise? I know people tend to complain about the headband on it vs. the sundara

The bifrost is a bit rich for my blood but I have heard good things about the asgard. Do you think a modius/asgard stack would be a decent pairing? I realize I wouldn’t be able to run it balanced in that case but I don’t think I’d be losing out on much

Would skip the internal DAC of schiit cause they make the company name proud in comparison to their external DACs :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: otherwise a modius with Asgard or jot2 is as solid as it gets :love_you_gesture:only jot wouldn’t be my pick if you want Iem usage

1 Like

If buying used is an option we can get some good gear HP wise to punish your wallet otherwise for new gear the other recommendations are solid

something to keep in mind is that if you plan on buying more premium headphones, you will need a sound chain that is also premium. headphones can be inexpensive and sound good and most of the time they actually scale well with a higher quality sound chain too. the cost / return equation doesn’t really balance out when you have such high end gear, but being the necessity for quality headphones it doesn’t hurt to create a solid foundation to grow on.

how much are you open to budgeting for better DAC and amps? also, I would recommend considering buying used gear as there are a lot of people that do buy and try to add sound examples to their repertoire. it leads to good savings over time!

If you go down the XS route definitely look at dekoni nuggets for a little more comfort and it’ll bring the bottom of the cups higher off the jawline.
If you want an all in one take a look at the JDS labs element. It’s linear but not super analytical and plays well with high tier headphones. Not super powerful but it has more than enough for majority of the headphones on the market.
I really enjoyed my EL2 stack with my audezes, DCA and hifiman headphones.


The headband had a hotspot on it when I bought it. Some gentle kneading with my thumbs fixed it permanently.

The cups of the Edition XS are far bigger and have a bit of a swivel, so they’ll be more comfortable.

Yes, I think the Edition XS is better than the Sundara. I don’t think I’m alone or lonely in that opinion, either.

Also second @Etroze86 recommendation of JDS Labs’ products. I have an Atom+ DAC/amp stack, and it’s tremendous value for money. Sensational customer service from JDS, too. I imagine the Element is even better.


Yeah, I’m leaning towards Modius + Asgard 3 at this point

1 Like

The Meze 109s are apparently not that affected by amplification and are relatively easy to drive. If you don’t want to spend a lot of application and on your source chain then these sound like a good option. That being said, if you live with other people, you might want to consider getting a closed back. This is one part of my collection that I need to improve on and the Focal Celestee and Radiances are the main ones I would consider. Just no funds right now. :slight_smile:

I’m always a fan of supporting JDS Labs.

To OP: JDS Labs is a great company to support. They make good reliable products (in the US if that’s important to you) and they provide absolutely top shelf customer support/service for everything they sell. I bought my El Stack 2+ specifically because of how important I think it is to put my money where my mouth is and support great companies that do business the right way. I also make purchases through my local hifi shops whenever possible for the same reasons.

It’s also important to note, that the Element and their components are also very competitive at their price ranges. They all give you solid performance and great value. With that in mind, if you’re looking to upgrade your DAC/Amp/Combo game, I second this recommendation for the Element or for one of the component systems from JDS, whichever suits you best.


Been mulling it over and after doing some research I think I’m gonna go with your suggestion and go for a bifrost 2/asgard 3 stack. Will probably get the asgard soon and just chain it with the GSX for now bc it will take me a bit to save up for the bifrost, but I think you’re right. Having a balanced amp would be nice but I’d have to buy XLR cables for every one of my headphones to get basically the same performance as the single ended output on the Asgards. Plus the bifrost would definately be endgame for me and would be good to go if I ever decided to upgrade the amp down the line.