Tube Rolling! DAC + Amp + Headphones? Advice needed?🙏

Hi all :smiley:!

Well I’m a tube enthusiast that’s going to buy my first " HiFi Headphone setup. Always been listening through speakers and such!

I’ve have tons of tube gear, tubes etc , but never been doing any listening through headphones.

I’m kinda of a sub / bass junkie at the same time as I’m a big fan of classic, acoustic stuff with huge soundstages. All in all high quality produced music & sounds.

Question’s as follow, to make long story short :smiley::love_you_gesture:!.

I’ve been looking for a while and found following AMP + DAC combo and wonder what thoughts you have or other recommendations. " I’m looking for some really good stuff for tube rolling " Mainly Double Triodes ", ecc81, 82, 83, 12au7, at7, ax7 & other equivalents.

Budget estimate: 1K - 1.250K USD more or less,

DAC: S.M.S.L MP200. |

AMP: xDuoo TA-20. |


For headphones I’m kinda lost, because i have zero possibility to try stuff ( living in a small town :confused: ). I’m willing to pay around 4 - 600 euros. And im looking for " Planar Magnetic’s " that produces deep bass, punchy mids , wide living soundstage , fine vocals, somewhat smooth treble , and i like to play at loud volumes, without feeling fatigued. But I really prefer thick, thumpy ,solid sound with really good dynamics as there’s a lot of different elements going on at same time in the genres i prefer.

I also would like my cans to be able to play quick & fast sounds , as im listening to quite allot of " drum & bass " without stuff getting muddy and blending together. Feels hard to explain :confused:

Well hope anyone has some input :pray::sunglasses:

Best regards :love_you_gesture:!

This wishlist is long. I think hitting all of these targets in a planar at the headphone budget listed may be tough. I wonder if taking a look at Audeze’s offerings might be a start for the desired profile.

I’ll recommend the edition XS again :yum:

If you are from Europe which would be my guess have a look at this offer from a German retailer: XDUOO TA-20 DSD-DAC + KHV PREMIUM RÖHREN KOPFHÖRERVERSTÄRKER - HEADPHONE AMP XLR HIGHEND - CLEAR Components - Hifi & Highend Zubehör zum TOP Preis!

Hehe quite good timing pokrog! Was just reading your inputs about the XS , sound very interesting at least! …

You haven’t got any advice regarding the DAC + amp ?:pray::slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks, but the amp is retailed at 340euro from ebay with free shipping from china :+1:

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Yeah I know , to much to wish for as always! I could stretch my budget quite far tho! :stuck_out_tongue::grin:… but i struggle quite hard with finding a headphone tube amp that uses the kind of double Triodes i have on hand :/.

Spend more on the amp if you’re going planar and maybe get a tube preamp. An amp with lots of current is gonna be important and in the budget there’s not many that have lots of current and tubes. DAC wise the smsl 200 is fine, swoop a Douk U2 pro and it’ll really sound good. As for amp, something like a singxer sa-1 or maybe a jot 2 would pair nicely but id say the sa-1 would do better with a tube preamp.

You’ve identified planar magnetic as a desire, and rightly you’re looking at hybrid tube amplifiers. However, I’ve long wondered how the Schiit Valhalla 2, with a relatively low output impedance, and is a ‘true’ OTL amp that uses your preferred tubes — could that work well for planar?

Another recommendation for Schitt stuff, although the European supplier seems to be mostly out of stock these days. Noting your preference for wide soundstage I’ll say that many tube amps will widen it considerably. I’ll put Hifiman Arya out as a good candidate. If you are able to order from somewhere with a return policy you at least get a chance to change your mind. Happy hunting mate, let us know what you end up with.

Well i hear what you are saying! You have plenty of good input & experience! … I’ve been thinking in the same way regarding , a tube pre amp + amp but i find it kinda hard finding any with the tubes I’ve got on hand. Do you maybe know any or have any ideas?

I’ve looked at the Schiit Valhalla 2 but can’t find anywhere to buy it unfortunately :confused: … thinking that plus DAC, preamp & amp maybe work better chain like , DAC + Valhalla + amp ?

But i need to find more tube pre amp alternatives ?

Hmm I’m kinda wondering the same thing :grin:!.. I’ve planned to buy the Hifiman Edition XS , and they’re only 18 ohm impedance I think … And the Valhalla states that it would be no problem to run say a SH HD600 that has 250 - 300ohm so I’m like hmmm? :thinking:

Do you have any ideas , alternatives other than the Valhalla 2 , that uses the same tubes maybe ?:stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah, it’s ability to play high impedance cans is zero problem. Its ability to drive very low impedance planars is more dangerous ground. THAT low, I wouldn’t expect much as the Valhalla’s output impedance is not far from that. Hopefully some serious tube heads will come in.

Again, for that planar you’re safer with a hybrid tube amp.

That’s exactly what I’m thinking :thinking:! But i do think i could really be nice I’ve you would use it as a " Preamp " in chain with a more powerful amp!

Yeah hoping for some tube enthusiasts !

There is a lot of gear using small 6J1 tubes and such. But by my experience those tubes ain’t as much fun to do some rolling with! :grin:

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Incl. import tax?

Hehe that’s another question! Only thing I know is that I’ve successfully dodged the taxes from china several times. By asking them to change labeling of price , product etc ! …

But the link to the German seller , maybe a good choice!

Does anyone know if the TA-20 tube amp , would drive the Hifiman E XS ? :thinking::grin:

That amp will definitely drive those headphones.
The only amp I have that uses 12au7 is a Bravo Ocean. Fun, dirt cheap — but you’re smart to aim higher.

I have the Schitt Mjolnir 2, a hybrid that uses double triodes (ecc88) and puts out plenty of power. A separate power amp would be complete overkill although it might stretch your budget a bit. With adapters it would be possible to use the tubes you already own and I’ve had very little trouble getting decent tubes for it. Hifiman’s American site are having a huge black Friday sale currently, I just got a set myself and even with duty and shipping I’m paying well below half price.

Just took at look at specs for Edition XS and TA-20. You should be fine as far as power goes, those 'phones have low impedance and high sensitivity, they could run off your mobile.

Thanks for your input. :)… I’ve been reading a lot about the Schiit products and there are several stuff i like! But so far it seems i can’t get hold of any as I’m living in Sweden , nothing on ebay , and as you said Schiit eu are out of stock.

I really think that a Valhalla 2 could work nicely as preamp in a chain of a SMSL M300 MKll + pre amp + amp . I’ve found the SMSL here in Sweden for 270usd…

Haven’t really found any other good alternatives for a tube preamp without braking budget quite hard :confused:

As for now this is my thought on chain setup: douk u2 pro + SMSL M300 MKll + xDuoo TA-20 + Hifiman Edition XS :smiley:!

But still a bit worried about the ta-20 regarding it’s possibility to run the HEXS to really let them shine !:thinking:

2watts per channel i think :thinking: