Recommendations for amp/amp+dac for 598SE's? (And possible speakers down the line)

For the longest time i’ve been longing to expand my audio setup but have previously been very restricted by my student budget, thankfully that is/has come to an end and i’m now free to work on my setup.I have a pair of Sennheiser 598SE’s that i’ve been using for a while now and I’ve been happy with them so far, but been considering an upgrade to something along the lines of 650’s.

Anyway on to the point, I’ve been browsing for information regarding an amp/dac setup, either stack or aio, and also what I could need for my cans. Sadly I’m not very knowledgeable regarding these things, I am by no means an audio dummy - i get the gist of what is going on. However, when i am presented with the absolute jungle that is mixmatching amps, dacs, speakers and cans I have to admit i am baffled.

My main daily use is listening to a few flac albums and mostly spotify premium on max quality from my PC. I have no other equipment currently other than my cans and a pair of Argon Alto 4 speakers by the TV. In the future I’ve planned on upgrading both my speaker setup and cans but that’s for another day.

What would be a good amp/dac setup for my uses with a pair of 598SE’s? Do you reckon i even need one? I’ve looked at everything from the Schiit stack, jdb elements, jdb el stack, tinier portable solutions like the M2 and firefly plus cheap aio’s like the E10K. Just not sure what’s a good fit for 598se’s, and if it is even needed.

Budget is around 400-500eu for dac+amp if thats considered necessary.
Any help would be much appreciated, im completely lost!

If there’s a solution that also some-what futureproofs for a 2 speaker set up that would be optimal, but not needed! :slight_smile:

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Well you could get a monoprice thx 788 desktop (124459) and be fairly future-proof. It’s a dac/amp combo with a great headphone amp and line outs for a speaker. It’s also got a built in eq and dsp settings so you might be able to do a bit of room correction.

Another all in one unit would be the aune x1s. It has a very clean headphone out, built in dac, and a pre out for speakers.

The sabaj d5 is also another aio option, but I personally have not heard this

If you wanted a separate dac and amp combo you could get a smsl su-8 or a cheaper topping d10 as a dac and an aune x7s or a jds atom or monolith liquid spark as an amp

All of these options should have rca outs for speakers, and some have preamp outs so you can control the volume from the device

You may not need an amp for the 598. But you would for the 650’s. If you want to spend the minimum amount, you could get just a JDS labs Atom which has a preamp output. I wouldn’t get JDS Labs’ other stuff. What kind of features did you want regarding the speakers?

I would agree with this, since the 598 are pretty happy with most sources. Just wondering, what are you currently using them with? You would still most likely experience a quality upgrade with a dac and amp for the 598, but it wouldn’t be a very large difference if what you are using right now is adequate. I would suggest buying a dac along with an amp if you were considering an upgrade though.

They’re literally just plugged into my pc mobo, granted it was a pretty high-end one when i built it but it has a couple of years on its back (around 5-6 years ago now I believe, it’s an asus z97 deluxe), and is still an on-board dac.

@marcgii The plan is to upgrade my headphones as well, if i’ll do it at the same time or chill for a month or two i’m not sure - and also which headphones im not sure yet, still having a look. But i quite like the sennheiser sound so the 650’s seem a good fit (Or 600-600s i guess).

Mainly just curious if getting a dac/dac+amp setup is worth it for the 598’s (and what would fit it), and if not, what would be a good fit for 600-660’s or another good pair of headphones.

Thanks for the advice so far!

EDIT: Also, how come you think i should steer clear of JDS’ other stuff? Any reason or just not worth the pricetag? :slight_smile:

Older JDS stuff isn’t as good as their newer stuff for the price, and the atom is their real price to performance beast atm. If you have any plans of upgrading headphones, you would want to consider a an aio or separate dac and amp combo. You would probably see a sound quality improvement with the 598, but it wouldn’t be night and day. The options mentioned above would all be great improvements over your current dac/amp situations. It just depends on how much you want to spend and what features you want.

Another question is what do you want for your speakers? The ones listed above either include a pass through or a variable line out for outputting the dac signal to powered monitors or an amp. The line out is fixed full volume while the pre out is able to be controlled by the volume dial

Ahh okay!

With regards to budget, I was thinking somewhere in the range of 400-500 for the amp/dac and a similar budget for the new headphones. As far as features go I honestly don’t have any particular preferences, I’m mainly all about having a good sound and a volume knob, that’s pretty much all I need. Same goes for any possible future set of speakers, having a physical knob to swivel for the volume is preferred rather than switching it exclusively through the source. The ones I have currently are active speakers so it’s only for future upgrades.

But yeah, don’t need portability, bass boost or any other shenanigans - just a quality amp/dac that will help achieve the best sound i can afford haha!

What would be a good DAC fit with the Atom? The monoprice THX aio seems good from what i’ve heard and read. Just trying to find some solid ground regarding options and try to scout my way through those until I find a good fit for me - and pray that shipping to Europe isnt a nightmare.

The atom is probably the best budget amp on the list, and for a budget dac the topping d10 is great and very simple. If you wanted more features on your dac, the topping d50 is also something to look at. The atom can also control the rca outs it has to control the volume of powered speakers through its volume knob as well. That would most likely be just fine for the sennheisers. The monolith has alot more features and is balanced, but the atom is so clean for single ended headphones I don’t know if it would be worthwhile if you don’t care about the features or balanced. There are alot of different headphones to consider for an upgrade

I’ve tried to read up on balanced vs single ended audio and while i somewhat understand the basics behind what its doing, I have a hard time grasping it entirely. So i can’t really speak for whether or not I would want a balanced amp such as the monolith. I do like the customizable options on it though, and crossfeed sounds interesting for certain uses. You’re probably right though, the atom and a decent dac probably fits me the best.

Yeah there are a ton! Sadly I barely have any shops in my area where i could try a few to see what i enjoy, so i have to purely rely on reviews online. You got any headphone tips? So far I’ve been looking at the 600-660’s, beyerdynamics, the argon mk3’s and a few others.

Honestly balanced is a sensitive topic and some say it makes no sound quality difference whatsoever, and I believe that it makes a very minuscule bump in quality, but the main benefit is more power to the headphones typically. But tbh its really not worth while to spend more on balanced if you don’t have a particularly power hungry headphone.

Well regarding headphones, what type of sound do you prefer? And what’s your budget? There are a bunch of different options, and to start to single down what you might want, you have to kinda make a list of what you want and what you like

Edit: you can also try out something like crossfeed through software on a pc to see what its like (although it might not sound as good vs on the monolith)

Budget is somewhere along the lines of 500-600eu tops, i’m flexible, it really depends on if i find something that i feel like i really want - then i can stretch. But i want something that is a decent upgrade from the 598’s, and i think around the 450-600eu range is a good breaking point of bang per buck.

I really enjoy a wide soundstage and clear and crisp sound, I want to be able to enjoy clean recording and sit there and be able to nitpick out each instrument as if they hover around you (Maybe that sounds odd). I really do prefer that over muddy heavy bass cans, ofcourse I appreciate a punchy and wellbalanced low end when blasting, as long as its not too much. Clarity is important to me.

I havnt tried a wide variety of cans so its hard to specify a brand sound. Due to strict budgets previously and the fact that i really enjoyed the 598’s so i never really had to upgrade, so Sennheiser is just about the only brand sound I can relate to, but I really do enjoy it.

Perhaps try the dt1990. It has a pretty wide soundstage and has great separation and detail. Also built pretty well. Can be fatiguing to some because of the elevated highs though, but I feel that I could comfortably wear it for around 3 or more hours without discomfort.

The hd660 is also good and carries the sennheiser sound as well. Its not as wide and spacious as the dt1990, but is more relaxing and has a more natural timbre imo. But it also has slightly rolled off highs compared to the beyer.

The hifiman he560 v1 (wood veneer) or the hifiman sundara is another good planar alternative that has a nice planar impact with clear highs and good separation, with a natural soundstage that has good instrument placement, but would most likely require a stronger amp to bring out it’s best. Both the other suggestions would be perfectly fine with the atom amp and whatever dac.

Edit: imo for what you describe to want, the 1990 meets the most of those criteria, but not many headphones in this price range seem to have that “hover around you” feeling, but have the other things you mention

Thanks for the recommendations!
I’ll try to get hands-on experience with the 1990 and 660 in particular, hopefully that’s a possibility.

i’ll check out the Atom and the topping dacs as well, and see what seems like a good fit once i’ve settled on a pair of headphones. Dacs seem the hardest to judge for me, how they perform seems so intangible and hard to research. Is there any way to grasp how ‘good’ a dac is without listening to it?

Usually dac measurements tend to be the most reliable way to judge dacs based on performance. Also the headphone makes the biggest difference in a setup, and the amp makes a smaller difference. Most people wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference between a decent dac anyway, unless they were seriously listening for it, and even then it would be super small. The reason dacs sound different is because of the way they are implemented (although this has been about sigma-delta dacs, not R2R resistor latter dacs, which uncommon and are a different story)

You can check out measurements that Audio Science Review does for a measure of objective performance of a dac. TBH most are fine these days and you would pay extra for features. You will really only hear a larger step up in quality with ridiculously high end (expensive) dacs, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.