I currently have a modius/Asgard 3 stack and while good I feel like something is missing and I want something more. I’m currently using them with Empyreans which are already super easy to drive and sound pretty good on anything. I am also considering one day getting a pair the HE1000 stealth or v2 as well. I don’t know whether it would be more beneficial to upgrade the amp next or the dac next and am looking for recommendations. I don’t want to spend more than around $800 to upgrade my amp or DAC or both. Any recommendations are appreciated.
If you wanted a somewhat direct upgrade within your budget set point, I think swapping the modius for a bifrost 2 would be a nice overall upgrade to the setup. The bf2 is also a solid option for a higher end amp later on. Personally I’d stick with the asgard if you like it, although if you wanted to upgrade on the amp side of things there’s some solid options you could consider like a monolith liquid platinum or a cayin iha-6, although those are both a bit different direction than the Asgard, but I think they would both mesh well with your meze and a future hifiman. You could really go either amp or dac first and still get good benefit, personally for myself I favor source first, but in your case if you wanted to jump to the hek right after I’d go for the amp, but if you will stick with the meze for awhile first I’d probably go dac
I do think that you’ll probably want to either raise your budget now if you wanted to upgrade both at the same time, or get an amp or dac with what you have now and then upgrade the other down the line as well if you’re looking for something like the hekse admittedly (the meze will also benefit as well of course)
A good question to ask would be what do you feel is missing? What do you like about your current setup, and what would you change? It’s good to have some idea of what you want to prioritize in sound to better decide what you want from the upgrade and what piece of gear might make the most sense
I’ve heard some expensive stuff from someone local but I don’t remember what it was. When I listened to what he had it was a bit more magical. It was very clear, detailed, resolving, smooth, a bit wide and spacious like there was nothing but the music. No noise so to speak, not that I’m getting noise from my setup now but that’s the best way I can describe it. Like it’s not as clear or detailed as it could be. I used to have a JDS labs amp/DAC that was $200 and there were things I liked about it better than what I’m using now. With what I have now I can tell every section of the audio is getting enough power which I needed for my HD660s (which my gf is using now). But I almost think the jds was more clear or resolving. With the Asgard 3 I’m at about 25% on volume so I don’t need something more powerful. I understand the stealth to have a low impedance but I don’t know if it needs more something else since I hear it’s amp dependent. When I listened local he also had he1000 v1 which was such a wide, but intimate, and unique experience it blew my mind and made me want to get a pair. But it’s disco now I believe and was like $3k. The stealth seem similar at half the cost at like $1,400 and if it’s anything like the original I would think I’d like it. But really I need an audio show to hear it before pulling that trigger and those come back next April to June.
Nice nice, a higher end source setup can really help with that lol. I’d suggest trying to see if you can figure out what you heard, would be a good thing to know for later lol
Makes sense. Especially with the meze being more forgiving, it probably sounds just fine, but there’s def more to be had
Gotcha, if you liked the focus of the JDS more, that’s something to note for what sort of amp to consider in the future
It’s more about quality of power than quantity. Out of curiosity, are you using in low gain or high gain mode? Personally to me I feel as though high gain mode sounds better on the asgard even if you don’t need the extra juice
From what it looks like and how the arya stealth reacted, it’s pretty quantity demanding, but also very quantity demanding, from my experience most hifiman like both high quality and quantity of power, which can make them difficult to properly drive lol
You should be able to find a used hekv2 (which imo is just a straight improvement on the v1) for around 1.4k or even less at this point, probably worth looking into for a good deal.
The hekse are also getting around 1.8k and under used which is also very good, while a bit of a different direction from the v2, I think it operates at a mostly higher level. I’ve not heard the he1000 stealth (confusing name for the new hfm product lines lol) so I can’t comment there. Personally, I’d rather suggest you try and find a he1000v2 for a good price used, as I’d somewhat imagine that would still outclass the he1000 stealth and would also offer an experience closer to the v1 you heard, but not sure perhaps the he1000 stealth is just as good or better than the older v2, can’t say. I’d just expect them to sound different in focus/experience given how my experience with non stealth vs stealth versions of hifiman I’ve heard, tend to go a bit different direction (like the he1000v2 vs he1000seor arya v2 vs arya se)
If you can visit a show or get more demos, that’s absolutely worth doing if you can, gives you a lot more experience to make a decision off of (and sometimes there’s some nice show deals lol)
Well anyways given what you’ve said, honestly I might actually suggest upgrading the amp first, because I think that getting a cleaner and more neutral leaning dac that’s an actual significant upgrade over what you have would be over budget imo (but if you could swing something like a soekris dac2541 that’s a really solid pick). I think amp wise for a hekse and meze, I’d really gravitate toward the liquid platinum given it’s sound (very immersive, plenty of power, offers great grip and control, and pretty spacious and resolving), and with how good of a deal they can be used (or new when they go on sale). I also think the cayin is a solid pick (equally technical, a bit warmer and more relaxed, potentially more microdynamic and more weighted), but I think that leans closer to the sound of the asgard rather than something like a jds.
While it’s def higher than your budget, amp wise I really think something like a violectric v550 or headamp gsx mini might be a really nice pairing with what you’ve got and what you might like, something that will really get a lot out of the hifiman and meze. For what dac you’d want to pair, it would really depend on how you’d want to lean the setup after getting one and finding out how it is. But in that case, the amp can only be as good as what it’s fed, so you’d want to make sure to get a pretty high quality dac soon after or beforehand (personally with the vio and hek I like the aforementioned soekris for a cleaner focus, but going higher level I enjoyed the combo of a crane song solaris quantum or schiit og yggy a2. For the gsx + hek I liked a holo spring 3 kte or the crane song but also a chord qutest. You could go higher on the dac for either and continue to get rewarded, but I think the 2-3k ish range dac wise is a pretty nice place to be with those amps and a hek). I know it’s pricey for a chain like this, but imo in the end it’s really worth it for a hek or potentially empy, really brings a lot more out of them and would get you much closer to what you likely heard
My personal take on amps and dacs is less is more. I have a JDS labs element 3 boosted. Basically, anything can run off of it, it’s small, and has a great knob feeling, and I run powered speakers out of them.
Could I imagine things being better? Sure, but for me, it’s really perfect and it feels and looks great. John Seaber is a treasure. JDS labs as a company is awesome, and I appreciate the customer service.
I’ve listened to higher SINAD and more expensive dacs/amps but like I can’t tell the difference.
I understand I’d have to eventually upgrade both eventually. It would be nice if I could keep the total cost to like $1500 for the amp and DAC which is about what the A90D/D90LE stack would cost which some people seem to like. I don’t know how much of a bigger of an improvement it would be over what I’m currently using. The reason I started considering the HE1000 again is because I think it’s like $1400 new right now. And although I don’t think I’d be willing to buy it until next spring/summer when I might have more money and a refund from uncle Sam. If I buy the better amp and DAC
this year, hopefully by the time summer rolls around next year and I can listen to the HE1K I will have enough money to buy them. Hopefully it’s not like getting rid of an old model discount.
You probably could then with some of the aforementioned options, something like a soekris 2541 or bifrost 2 + liquid platinum or the iha6 is right around in there in price, especially used
I think signature wise it’s a bit closer to the jds stack, but really from my experience the improvement from the modius + Asgard is more minimal from a technicalities perspective. Personally I find the a90d more meh, it’s alright, but nothing all that special in sound, and I prefer the liquid platinum or cayin over it in most all aspects. The D90 is something I actively feel is a poor value, honestly I’d rather get a geshelli j2, allo revolution dac, jds el dac, etc, and those are in the same price range as the modius lol. I’d rather just suggest you stick with the modius or go for something more substantial dac wise like the mentioned 2541, bf2/64, perhaps a used chord qutest, perhaps a denafrips ares ii, to me those are notable improvements over the d90 in sound. So just personally not a big fan of the a90d/d90se stack lol.
Gotcha, if you do go for it will be very curious on your thoughts, I really need to check that one out to see how it holds up against the hekv2 and hekse eventually. Seems like a real solid price for it, just makes me wonder if it’s up to par with the other older hek given how it’s positioned
Seems like you have a pretty solid plan in place, given how that’s a new model being discounted right away, seems like a bit lower tier new model in the line rather than clearing out their top model
The burson soloist 3xp is $1100, but you can usually find for less. Also the earmen ch-amp is on sale for $999. Topping and Smsl come out with new DACs every few weeks, the new topping d70pro OCTO looks interesting. They’re all pretty similar though. Like someone already said, The ares 12th or bifrost 2/64 will be more unique.
I reached out to the guy I met up locally with. He said he has a UD-501 DAC and Ragnarok 1. Those two I remember seeing at his place. I remember listening to the UD 501 as the dac and I think the Ragnarök as well. The others I don’t remember as much but he currently has a SFD-1mk2 dac, Crimson 275 stereo amp, schiit saga s pre amp, and ifi pro iesl estat/headphone adapter. Have you listened to the UD-501 or Ragnarok before and what would you recommend to be similar to them?
Sounds like a pretty great setup The vintage SFD are quite nice dacs
I have, but not together, and it’s been a while since I’ve heard them. I mean with the Ragnarok the new one would be pretty similar to the old lol, and actually @LakeWyles mentioned the soloist 3xp and that’s actually something I think could be somewhat similar as well (and also pair well with the hek). The UD it’s honestly been long enough to where I don’t remember what it sounds like that well so I can’t really say tbh, sorry about that