Newbie seeks help for its first headphone setup (DAC/AMP)

First off: I hope I selected the right forum-subcategory. If not, please move it to the right spot.

Years ago I got myself a nice Home theater setup (Onkyo tx-nr905, Focal 816 W fronts, 800 center and 800 bookshell back, PS3 for the Blueray/DVD part and a little gaming). I really like watching movies!

I also like to listen to music during work behind my computer or working in the garden/garage (repairing motorcycles). I listen to all kinds of styles but mostly pop/rock (Metallica, Within Temptation, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd to name a few) and music without vocals (trance, Jean Michell Jarre etc.) during computer work when I need to focus on things. I really do like the bass.

Today I find myself behind my computer even for watching movies (Netflix, Disney). We moved things around resulting in a bedroom in stead of a home theater-room… (ok, watching movies in bed together has its plusses). I use a gaming headphone (Hyper X Cloud II) for this. And I would like to upgrade.

I’m not a audiophile (yet, who knows), I’m able to afford 2500-3000 Euro’s but if this is way to much for a decent setup please let me know.

I’ve looked around on the internet (YT, forums) and based on several sources I’ve come up with the following:

  • Shhitt makes good stuff (Magnius/Modius stack, Bifrost 2, Jotunheim 2)
  • Topping makes good stuff (A90, D90)
  • HifiMan Sundara, Arya
  • Focal Clear, Celestee (looked at those because I own Focals)
    Some reviewer communicated their enthousiasm even non-verbaly. Enjoyed those reviews :slight_smile:

I’ve already made a appointment to listen to those HifiMan and Focal headphones. They use the Focal Arche, Burson, Lehman Audio and Pro-ject amps. There are no stores in my country (the Netherland) where they sell those headphones and Schitt and/or Topping Amps/DACs. So I’m unable to try them out combined. I’m able to buy them though. The European Schitt dealer is within the Netherlands.

And thats why I ask you for help. I’ve read several reviews here (@WaveTheory, @M0N to name a few) and I like they way they described things (extensively, looking at you WaveTheory, cudos for that).

Based on my descriptions above, what do you suggest?
Bifrost 2 + Jotunheim 2
Bifrost 2 + Topping A90 (saw a YT-ber which indicated this would be a suburb combination)
Something else?

As for the headphones…
Which of the indicated Amps the shop has, is more or less comparable with the Topping A90 or Jotunheim 2? Or perhaps another Amp.

Thanks!!

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So before I say anything, if you were already able to make appointments to listen to the headphones, I would listen to them first, then get back and go over your experiences imo to figure out source gear

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As someone who has tried to order from Schiit Europe (hey, ben van België :stuck_out_tongue: ) I would strongly advise against it. ‘in stock’ means 2-3 months waiting time when you ring them up and ask for the actual waiting time and ‘out of stock’ means will never be fucking sold in Europe haha we got ya.
If you can deal with that… then go for it, because the’re excellent DAC/AMP’s!

I however couldn’t deal with that level of ‘fuck the customer’. I got myself the SMSL SU-8 an SH-9 off amazon (.de but .nl will have it too) to run my Sundara’s on (from wifimedia) and… yes :smiley: it sounds great!

I know the SU-8 an SH-9 are a little ‘lower tier’ than the bifrost and jotunheim but the main point is Schiit Europe is not interested in selling products.

There are many companies making good headphone amps, not just the big players :wink:
(Does not stop me from recommending a LakePeople device though :stuck_out_tongue: )

I would also consider the LakePeople G111 (same price as Topping A90, but made in EU/Germany).

Well, that is the plan. Already got a small list of music ready and plan to take some CD’s with me.

The thing is that I’m a bit worried. Perhaps I don’t need to worry about it, but…
They sell pretty high end stuff (reason I used the link). How much will this effect the listening experiance when pairing a Clear with the Arche or the Schiit stack Magnius/Modius?

Or don’t I need to worry and enjoy the experiance (13th of March)?

Very imo, it can make a significant difference between how the headphones preform, so you want to make sure you aren’t limiting yourself source gear wise, and trying the amps and dacs they have at the store. Limiting a higher end headphone to only budget gear generally isn’t a wise idea. I would personally expect to pay around 500 ish for a good amp and similar or more for a good dac for the clear to really get more out of it imo (and of course you can spend more and get more as well). Out of what products you mention they have listed, I would make sure to try the lehmann linear se and linear, the mcintosh mha150, and the burson conductor 3x reference or 3x performance imo, as well as the arche, as that should give you range on how things may change with those headphones and what you might want to put your money in imo. If you wanted to get a feel on how more budget gear could limit things, you could try them on something like a pro ject head box s2 and see what changes. There are other good options out there as well that you could most likely find elsewhere too, but for now, I would try things out in the store and see what you end up liking first, and if that happens to be out of your price range, there are most likely alternatives you could consider as well imo

Welcome @Tom17 you’re in good hands already.

What I will add is to take notes when you listen to stuff. Find out what you like and what you dislike about what you’re hearing and then move on.

It’s really easy to forget what sounded like what an hour after you tried it. Then when you’ve listened to it, go back and listen again and see if your original notes held up then use all that to make your choice.

An opportunity to listen like that is the thing you’ll be getting the most value from. From there buy the components you liked best that you’re willing to compromise on. Be that cost, shipping, delivery times, aesthetics, ergonomics.

Easy peasy.

Well, I went to the Audio-dealer today. Just got back. I would like to share my findings.

Yesterday I called them to make sure they had the headphones available:

  • Hifiman Sundara, Ananda and Arya

  • Focal Celestee and Clear

I asked which amps they have available in the demo-room:

  • Focal Arche

  • Burson Conductor 3 Reference

They had no other Amps that could be used in the demo-room.

On arrival I saw the Arche on the desk. It was broken down. Well, that is a good start. The friendly guy grabbed the Focal Clear and guided me to the demo-room. These guys are very Focal minded: a lot, and I mean a LOT of Focal speakers where available in the demo-room. Where is the Arya? Sorry, we don’t have that one available in the demo-room. The others are lying on the couch.

I used the provided tablet to stream my youtube-playlist by bluetooth to the Bluesound node 2i streamer which in turn was connected to the Burson.

I started with the Celestee. WoW! This is something else!

I listened a couple of numbers, some completely and some parts of them. Volume was set at 50. I missed the (low) bass within Comf.Numb, vocals are nicely separated (in my head they were coming from slightly different places. Did not notice that with my daily driver. Nice! 20 minutes later I realized I had to try out the others :slight_smile:

Next: Ananda.

Oei, I need more volume! Turned up the volume (99) to get the same ‘level’ as I had with the Celestee. This sounds different then the Celestee. More open, more bass, more detailed, different…

Due to the time limit (only got 1 hour), I listened to Comf.Numb, a bit of Dvorak and a bit ZZ Top.

Next: Clear

Still on volume level 99. More bass! Nice. I like this one even better then the Ananda, which in turn is better than the Celestee (imho, off course).

Next: Sundara

I had this on my head for about 10 seconds…I guess I’m spoiled now. It sounded muffled, like somebody added a blanket over the music. Nope, this is not one I like.

Due to the time constraints, I started switching between the headphones (Ananda, Celestee, Clear) using the same part of music (Comf.Numb) starting at 3:05-ish (after the first guitar solo), having some vocals and the big guitar solo at the end.

I like the Clear more than the others, that is the bottom line. But the amount of sound coming out of the back (used my knee to close the ear-part) is substantial! I don’t think my wife would appreciate that when I’m watching movies behind my PC while she tries to sleep (same room, with a room-divider).

Next best thing will be the Celestee. On that one the music is closer to you than with the Clear and the Ananda. I like the ‘color’ beter than the Ananda and it has more bass (I do prefer the bass…).

The shop guy ‘kicked me out’ after 15 minutes more listening time. I’ve asked why there are no more Amps to try out => best way to experience these headphones is with ‘the good stuff’ (his words) so it won’t interfere with the characteristics of the headphones. I can understand that.

All in all a really good experience! Now I have to look for another store that have these headphones AND the Arya.

Thanks @M0N for your advice and @db_Cooper for telling me to write down my experiences.

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and now you know a hell of a lot more about YOUR tastes. it will go a long way.

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Thanks for posting your experience! I’ve never been able to go to a “demo room” of sorts, but I appreciate your write-up.

So the Clear is around $1500 and the Celestee is… around $1000 I think?

As someone who is interested in purchasing one of these headphones, I know you think the Clear is better but is it $500 better? Or would you be satisfied with the Celestee at $1000? Assuming you weren’t worried about open-back vs. closed-back.

Your welcome!

At the shop where I had my demo the Clear costs 1199 Euro and the Celestee is 999 Euro. I’ve seen prices as low as 1139 Euro for the Clear in other shops. This is in the Netherlands. This ‘discount’ is available for some time now.

For that price difference I would like to buy the Clear. But that is my opinion.

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