Just for fun. Not only headphones, but mostly, for now.
This is “too good for the price” according to multiple sources.
Sorted by price, more or less.
- Koss KPH30i (and PortaPros): Great sound quality stuff for 40$ and better than many pricier headphones.
- Koss KSC75: Great sound quality stuff for 15$ and better than many many pricier headphones (but you may not like the “on-ear clip” style).
- Coolermaster MH751: “Gaming” headphones that actually sound good, with a removable cable and a removable mic. For 75$?! Enough said!
- Beyerdynamics DT880, 600 ohms version: Hard to find better for a “neutral” sound at 225$.
- Massdrop HD58X/HD6XX: The quality of the Sennheiser HD6–'s range, for 150$-200$.
- Verum Ones: Handmade planars for 350$, punching way above their price range.
- Neumann NDH20: Monitors, detail monsters, bassy, 400$.
- Hifiman Sundaras: They’re like 350$, but, they’re planar detail monsters for 350$. Here’s both Joshua Valour and “Resolve” / The Headphone Show basically saying that’s the best “all-around” you can get in hi-fi for cheap.
- Koss ESP 95X: Electrostatic headphones (hmm, “earspeakers” ? ), energizer included, lifetime warranty included, for 500$.
- Takstar HF580: 200$-ish planar detail monsters, because they got the same drivers as the 480$ Sendy Aivas. But bassy and dark-sounding.
- Monoprice M570: Same drivers as the 480$ Sendy Aivas again, for 300$! A bit treble-y.
- AudioQuest Nighthawk: A love/hate thing. Polarizing headphones. If you want something different, for 200 to 250$, these used to be 700$.
(Note: For KZ headphones, get another cable. The standard, 1$ cable they come with, litterally can’t reproduce the mids properly. Even the 4$ “silver color” KZ cable is way better.)
- KZ ZS10 Pros: Hybrid IEMS with 4x balanced armature + 1x dynamic, by ear, for 35$ – This technology was hundreds of dollars a few years ago! A bit V-shaped.
- KZ AS06: 30$ for 3x balanced armatures by ear. No dynamic drivers! In-your-face sound. Planar-ish bass/kick slam in IEMs. Recommended if you’re treble sensitive and/or the ZS10 Pros have too much treble for you.
- Panasonic HJE-120/125: Great, neutral-sounding IEMs for 10$. A bit bassy.
- Sony MH755: Great sounding IEMs for 5$! V-Shaped, the graph is similar to the Ikko Oh10.
- Tin T2: “The only IEM you need” according to Zeos, also really well received by Crinacle. 40$ USD, metal enclosure, removable MMCX cable!
- Moondrop Starfield: All-around great neutral-sounding IEMs for 110$ (and they’re beautiful!).
- Final Audio E Series (E2000, etc.): When a company making 5000$ headphones starts making 50$ IEMs, it can only sound good. E2000s are neutral, E3000s have more bass. The new E4000 and E5000 have a detachable MMCX cable, but are 100$+.
- Etymotics ER3XRs/ER4XRs: IEMs, detail monsters for 250$ – most “detail monsters” are 1000$ and over.
- Edifier R1700BT: DSP-corrected bookshelves for 150$. Digital Bass and Treble knobs. And Bluetooth, but no AptX.
- …yeah I need to add more.
- Fluance SX6: Big ass bookshelves. 100$. Heard about people selling 500$ speakers and buying these instead. For bassheads, you’ll want a subwoofer. Otherwise, a tiny bit treble-y, but extended to 20khz+.
- Micca OoO: “Centers”… for 100$ a pair. As Zeos said, just get 2 or 3 pairs of these and you have a great home theater! (…just don’t forget the actual center channel. )
- Micca RB42: Excellent bookshelves for 150$ a pair. Someone at Zeos’s and DMS’s RMAF room thought these were 5000$.
- Triangle Borea BR02/BR03: More or less 500$. The least expensive speakers Triangle makes. These wowed a few reviewers who said the Boreas sound better than a lot of stuff under 1000$.
- Ohm Walsh: Zeos’s main, omnidirectional, speakers. 1600$ for the pair I believe. But he was blown away by how everything sounds good everywhere in the room, and how it sounded as good if not better than 10 000 to 50 000$ speakers at an audio show. Edit/Warning: Apparently omnidirectional speakers sound different than anything else, but not necessarily better.
- Topping D10, SMSL M100, SMSL Sanskrit 10th and the JDS Atom DAC are all good desktop DACs, all 100$ . Considering you can’t hear the difference between DACs at this price unless (maybe) you have “golden ears”, choose the one which looks the best for you and enjoy.
- Behringer UCA-202: 40$-ish USB DAC with a 100+dB SINAD RCA line-out. Maximum 48khz. This is actually a DAC + Amp but with really low power, so it’s not included in the “DAC/Amp” list below.
- Khadas Tone Board: Just a board. No enclosure. A board with an ESS chip and 110dB SINAD for 100$.
- SMSL IDEA: A dongle DAC with ESS chipset and 115-to-120dB SINAD for 85$.
- Topping E30 is a new and great DAC for 130$. Even if the name starts with E. (…Stand-alone Topping dacs before the E 30: D 10, D 30, D 50, D 90…). Will play all your files up to 32bit/768khz/DSD512 for all the bats around you.
- Mass/drop Airist R2R: Ladder DAC for 350$ – This technology was THOUSANDS of dollars a few years ago!
- Topping D50S: I believe this is the cheapest that does “everything”. Another “32/768/512”, with a screen showing the file format (Khz), with Bluetooth AptX-HD/LDAC, with volume and a remote.
- Pro-ject Pre-Box S2: A dual mono DAC (two ESS9038 chipsets in two completely separate channels) for 400$.
- JDS Labs Atom: 1dB less distortion than the “benchmark” THX AAA 789 amp and [email protected] for 100$. And no, you don’t get the “effortlessness” and detail of the AAA technology, obviously, but wow.
- Schiit Heresy: 119dB SINAD and twice the power of the Atom for the same price. In a metal box. Also made in USA. For 100$ too. Damn.
- Schiit Asgard 3: 200$ for a 3.5 watts per channel modular headphone amp (you can transform this into a DAC/Amp for 100$ or 200$ – but maybe you shouldn’t).
- Rupert Neve RNHP: A 500$ amplifier. Who’s Rupert Neve? The third person to receive a “Technical Grammy Award”. The “number one audio personality of the 20th century”… Well, just look at this thread.
- Emotiva BasX A-100: A really special one. Not quite an AVR (but probably better than most AVRs). A 50W RMSx2 @ 8 ohms speaker amp, and a headphone amp with a special “jumper” allowing you to push really, really power-hungry headphones. 12 f—ing watts at 33 ohms into your headphones. Webpage says “USE WITH CAUTION”… Indeed. All for 230$.
Balanced headphone amps:
- Geshelli Erish Balanced: Simply great. A balanced only headphone amplifier for 200$. Power: [email protected]
- SMSL SP200: The latest THX AAA Technology for 260$. Others are all 350$ or more. Warning: THX sounds too clinical according to some! Power: [email protected] for XLR and 1/4". (Yup, for the purists: This one is not “100% balanced”.)
- Topping A90: Excellent for some, “endgame” for others. A 500$ headphone amp even rivaling the 3000$ Benchmark HPA4 according to Soundnews. Powerful: [email protected] for the 1/4" and [email protected] balanced.
- Monolith Liquid Platinum: A 800$ hybrid tube amplifier by Alex Cavalli, often on sale for 400$ or even less (293$!) on the official website. Balanced outputs and inputs. A “detail monster”, natural-sounding headphone amplifier. A few people here like it. Note: As they say here: “While the Liquid Platinum is a tube amp (…) there’s very little of the warm, saturated sound that tube amps are known for. Instead, what you get is subtle detail. It’s not overly neutral or clean, but is elegant and precise.”
DAC/Amps (All-in-ones… or daclifiers ):
- Nobsound Mini: A 20$ DAC and passive speaker amp, now with Bluetooth 5 (…apparently). Old versions even include a headphone amp. And it all works. For 20$. Therefore it’s in the list, lol.
- FiiO K5 Pro: 150$ DAC and headphone amplifier with pre out for speakers (says “line out” but it’s a variable, pre-out!). Power: [email protected]
- FiiO BTR5: I mean, it just does everything… 150$ for a portable Bluetooth, battery powered DAC/Amp with LDAC which can also be used as a wired USB DAC/Amp , with dual ESS Chipsets, 3.5mm and balanced outputs. Screen shows encoding (AptX, LDAC, etc) or sample rate when used as a USB DAC.
- Ifi Zen Dac: DAC + Balanced headphone amplifier + switchable (variable or fixed) RCA and balanced outputs, and it supports MQA. For 130$. USB-only power possible for a portable DAC/Amp. Beat that…!
- Schiit Asgard 3: 200$ for a 3.5 watts per channel Class AB headphone amp. Add 100$ for the AK4490 DAC module, or 200$ for the True Multibit DAC module. (But maybe you shouldn’t).
- Sabaj D5: ESS 9038PRO DAC + 118dB SINAD XLR OUT + 116dB SINAD RCA OUT and 106dB SINAD balanced headphone amp (only [email protected] ohms for 1/4", but [email protected] for XLR). For 470$! Above all, impressive XLR OUT measurements.
- Topping DX7s: This “everythingizer” (sorry again) is now 400$. 2 x ES9038Q2M DAC + Full balanced headphone out + Balanced XLR out. For 600$, there’s also the DX7 Pro, adding Bluetooth AptX-HD/LDAC (among other things). Power: [email protected] 1/4", [email protected] balanced.
- Topping PA3: [email protected] for 100$.
- SMSL DA-8s: [email protected], and Balanced and RCA inputs, and Bluetooth, and a remote, for 170$.
- Denon PMA-600NE: A 400$ stereo amp (70Wx2) with Bluetooth and excellent sound for the price.
- Emotiva BasX A-100: A really special one. Not quite an AVR (but probably better than most AVRs). A 50W [email protected] speaker amp, and a headphone amp with a special “jumper” allowing you to push really, really power-hungry headphones. 12 f—ing watts at 33 ohms into your headphones. Webpage says “USE WITH CAUTION”… Indeed. All for 230$.