Poor Synergy Combos Thread

I have a poor synergy combo to share, and it also got me thinking about how we have comments talking about DACs and amps that don’t play nicely together scattered about HFGF. I thought it might be worthwhile to compile those into a single list (perhaps we can start an an exceptionally good synergy combos thread, too). If you post here, please be clear about not only the two pieces of gear that aren’t synergizing, but WHY they aren’t. In other words, what’s messed up about the sound? And also please include any diagnostic tests you’ve done to come to the conclusion it’s a synergy problem. Let’s also be explicit about the general YMMV caveat because this is a subjective hobby, ultimately. Even with that caveat though, I think such a thread will be useful as we all continue to grow in this hobby.

Poor synergy: SMSL M100 and Schitt Asgard 3 - I have the SMSL SU-8 and M100 going into a switcher and the outputs of the switcher going to an A3 and a JDS Labs Atom. When I listen to the A3 from the M100 the sound has a very odd distortion, mostly audible in the low mids and bass. It has a similar sonic quality to the pulsating sound you hear when speaking into a running fan blade. This distortion is audible when I remove the switcher from the chain and go direct from M100 to A3 and occurs both through USB and optical connections - and from both my desktop and laptop PCs. There is no such distortion from SU-8 to A3, even with the SU-8’s output volume maxed out. I can get the M100+A3 to not do this by lowering the system volume on my PC or a music app’s output level. Unfortunately the M100 doesn’t have a level control so I can’t just lower it there. Oddly enough, the M100 into the Atom or a Liquid Spark reveals no such distortions.


Airist R-2R -> THX 887 -> LCD X

It sounded dark and lacked details for me. Upper mids were not accurate or enjoyable.


very good idea for a thread imo. ill be watching this one.


Another poor mix. Bifrost 2 -> RNHP -> Blon B20. It sounds way to thing and unenjoyable. Almost U shaped garbage.

Contrasting to the previous post, when you swap the headphones on the chains they sound amazing. Really freaky.

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Su8-> Sp200 -> Dt1990. Too bright.


Anything -> THX -> Anything



You can insert ANY bright/brightish headphone on the end of that chain and get the same result.

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I’ve found that many headphone amps that primarily amplify the signal using op-amps have a brittle and treble-forward sound. After using the Asgard and Darkvoice for awhile, going back to the Atom or THX (when I had one of those) is just brutal in the treble.

Related question…What is the Liquid Spark doing for its amplifcation? I don’t know amp circuits well enough to know if it’s an op-amp based design. If it is, it’s an exception to what I just said.

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Not too sure as I’m not familiar with the design characteristics of the LS.

I am not sure but I never noticed any harshness or problem with any headphone using it.

My little Spark just feeds Vanatoo’s now.

Liquid Spark is discrete, a combination of JFets and MosFets I believe

I believe you are correct. Took more Google searching than I expected, but Monoprice’s website says basically that.

  1. There is no official thread for the Liquid Spark
  2. Discrete MOSFET based, using QJ444 and QJ459, them being P and N-channel FETs I would say it is a class AB, could be Class B too.
  3. I am not sure why there are four sets of MOSFETs


Nice. Thanks. This just strengthens what I said above re: op-amp designs and treble.

It’s more of worrying about poor implementations. I don’t get the harshness out of the Schiit Heresy.

As for the warmness, I’m going to just blame excessive capacitance or low quality coupling caps for a large portion. In a class A/B. The B class amplifier maybe the source of some of the warmness as well (as it’s a pain to do perfectly).

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Modius > rnhp > anything

Sounds thin and weak. Wild because these are both great pieces of gear


I’m totally trying that, if anything that might work well with the HP-3.

Is it that all planars dont sound good on the RNHP or just some?

Woah absolutely not. Fed by the modi, ADI2, probably other more analytical dacs my aeons and LCD2c sounded awesome on the rnhp.


FiiO BTR5 -> Abyss Diana Phi. Yeah… Not enough power to be enjoyable.

Some songs with the Bifrost 2 -> THX 887 -> Abyss Diana Phi leaves you feeling legitimately nauseated. From that experiment, I think there is too much capacitance in the signal chain in the amp internally that causes ringing within the amp. Swap out the Bifrost 2 for the Modius and the setup is actually pleasant… Go figure.

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