Seeking advice on how to up my game

Alright, so I know I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll also admit I don’t entirely know what I’m doing… As I’m fairly new, and have only had my first decently high quality headphone for about a year and a half now, I’ve got enough to still be a nube. I’d like to think I’m not above asking for help.

That’s my current set up (Note the UM2 does not work).
Headphones currently owned: HE-4XX, DT990 Pro, K550 MKIII, HE-350, KSC75X, Tin T2, Tanchjim Cora, Echobox Traveler
AMPs: Little Bear B4 and FiiO A3
Things I’ve had but gave away: M220 Pro (No bass, very mid forward. Not to my liking), HD 559 (WAY TOO MUCH CLAMP, and the pads did not feel great. The sound quality was alright, but the cable was not great.), and DAC-X6 (was pretty good, and got the job done… but person I gave the 559s to needed something with a quarter inch jack, and this fit the bill)
Everyone seems to complain about the high impedance 990s having piercing highs, but I don’t notice it. Hell, periodically I’d get the issue with the T2s more then anything else. I still feel like I enjoy a warmer, and sometimes darker sound.
Sorry about the rampling, please ignore it if it’s bothersome. Between the computer speakers I have and the block my monitor is standing on, there’s about 6.75"(17cm) on either side, and about 4"(9.5cm) high. Move about 3" (8cm) back, and you get an extra 3.5"(9cm) to the side.
DAC would have to interface via USB with either my laptop or desktop. I’m not looking to drop buckets of money on this, but just get things going at a better standard.

*If I where to update the speakers I’d want to keep it to a 2.1 channel set up.

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Soooooooooooo, what are you looking to do? I guess I am completely just missing it

I think on the headphone front I’m at a point that I can hold off on buying new ones. If I can reasonably upgrade the speakers, I’m all for it. Otherwise, I’m looking at bringing a dac/amp (combo or seperate units) back to the set up. I’m still concerned about keeping things to my size constraints, and preferably $300/unit or under.

Well, if you really worry about the size portion, you could find some used iLOUD Micro monitors that would be an upgrade imo

Micca RB42’s would also be an upgrade as well

If you wanted a really good dac and amp stack, the jds labs atom and topping d10 might be of interest to you. Or if you wanted more power and a bit of warmth, the monolith liquid spark and a smsl m100 or the upcoming liquid dac

Sorry about the confusion, like I said, I’m still trying to find out what I really like, and what works best for me. I guess a big part of it is looking for direction, if that makes sense

Ah, well what aspects have you enjoyed and what have you not? (to start out)

Out of the three amps that I’ve had, the B4 I’ve loved by far the most. The AMP in the X6 I liked a bit better then the A3, but not by too much.
First headphone I bought was the 550 MKIII (they where 50% off new direct from AKG at the time, and still had the free 2 day air shipping). I’ve loved their comfort and that they didn’t go crazy with the spectrum. The fact that they fold flat is still rather convient, and they get decently loud, particularly when fed a bit of extra power XP
I wanna say the HE-350s where next. I instantly swapped the pads for brainwaves angled pleather… after dealing with the yoak being broken the moment I pulled them out of the packaging (got HiFiMan to send the reinforced headband before Drop ever responded, though I contacted Drop a day before I contacted HiFiMan). To me, and others (at the time) they where loved for reaching deeper into the low end of the spectrum. Later I found the pads I had slapped on made them sound too bassy, and the stock pads of the 4XX sounded worlds better.
Following was the 990 Pros. Again, I was expecting shrill or piercing highs… but on all three amps I had, I didn’t notice. Not in jazz, female vocals, violins, pianos, nothing. They still sound wonderful, and as much as they’ve become the pair I reach for the least (beyond the 350s), I still love the tar out of them, particularly for games.
Finally, I bought a used pair of 4XXs, and instantly became the pair I constantly went for. It was like I was understanding imaging for the first time. Hell, listening to Kenny G was like the sax was right behind my head, and I couldn’t get enough. I’ve never minded the extra weight, and even still preferred feeding them with the B4 over the other two amps.
IEMs… I’m having a harder time decifering. Mostly, I grab the T2s (on some songs, some high notes get a little sharp for my liking), the Travelers (fit great under a benie, and personally sound good enough), or KSC75X (Bass is slightly drawn back, but have wonderful seperation and detail without being overly sharp… Though I will say they can use the extra kick in the pants to wake them up. I’ve swapped the pads on them for Yaxi pads).

Completely forgot, the Coras I’d say are simply alright. Nothing special, and tend to get forgotten about. They are the pair I leave locked in my desk in class in case I forget to snag a pair when I leave my room in the morning.

So you tend to prefer the 4xx type sound then? I mean you could upgrade if you weren’t super satisfied. I would say the upgrade to the 4xx would be the he560 v1 or he5se, but those require a boatload of power to sound their best and I would say it would exceed your budget. So I would just stick with your current headphones if you don’t find anything really lacking

You could try getting a dac and amp stack like the liquid spark and a dac and that might help out your 4xx with more power and potentially a better sound (well I think it would improve those headphones at least)

Or if you wanted to stick to a tube hybrid like the b4, the xduoo ta-10 might be up your alley

I’ve been looking at the TA-10, particularly since it’s $255 on APOS right now. the TA-20 used to be right at $300, if memory serves, though it’s ~$310 now.

With your current setup I think you should upgrade your speakers. They look like the weakest link in your setup. If you can do without a 2.1 system, the Micca RB42’s will work well as reviews point to these being able to produce pretty good bass for their size. I don’t see any current, great sounding 2.1 systems being able to fit in that space. At least none that would sound much better than what you have already.

EDIT: The SMSL AD18 would be a great amp for the RB42’s in that space.

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The ta20 also does not have a dac, so you would still need to add a dac where the ta10 has a built in dac thats pretty good

I would agree, the rb42’s are pretty great and compact enough to fit in your space imo, but then again I don’t think BluJay said how often he actually used his speakers, as I would personally say upgrading the headphones would be a better choice if he doesn’t use speakers that often. But he does use them often, the rb42’s and a smaller amp like a pa3 and a dac would be a pretty great setup

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I typically use them when I’m cleaning up the room or just feel like kicking back on the bed on the other side of the room and watching some anime or a movie. Otherwise, it’s headphones for music, gaming, or I’m just sitting closer.

Well, I would say the RB42’s would be a fantastic improvement for watching movies and anime.

Can 2nd this, really would be a big step up :+1:

The room is a little over 11 feet wide, so my head would be about 9 feet away from the speakers, provided they are exactly where the current speakers are placed.
Don’t know if that makes any kinda difference

I’m not sure if they would comfortably fit in there with the monitor from the picture but you never know

That’s the concern I have with the RB42s, there’s only just under 4 inches of space on either side. Though I could put them in the space underneath, and not really have to worry about size

That would work, and you could angle them to your listening position

The trick at that point is catching them while they are available.
So, at that point, there’s the concern of the amp/dac situation. Y’all shot off ideas of the xDuoo TA-10:

Liquid Spark:
Liquid Spark DAC:
and SMSL AD18: