I am moving more seriously from loudspeaker to a headphone based system. Three kids under 5 make it hard to listen to music on my loudspeaker set up these days. I have a $800-900 budget and looking for good sound that I can grow to very good sound in the future. My preference is tonal neutrality and a more laid back sound vs "fun" or bright sound.
My question is for my budget how much should I put into headphones vs amp/dac. My sources will be my Mac and CD player. Which of the following set ups would be the best for now while allowing growth.
(A) $700 on headphones like HiFi-Man HE500 and $200 Amp like HiFi-Man EF2 or AudioEngine D1
(B) $300 on headphones probably used Sennheiser HD650 and $600 on Amp/DAC like used Centrace DACMini
(C) $300 on headphones probably used Sennheiser HD650 and $150 DAC like ODAC/HRT Streamer and $450 Amp like Schiit Lyr
(D) $300 on headphones probably used Sennheiser HD650 $450 DAC like Schiit BitFrost and $150 amp like Little Dot
Thanks for your opinions and suggestions.
Choose option A. **By far** the biggest factor in sound quality is the headphone. HE500 in particular have the best sound for the money imo and are in a different league than the Senns and most any other <$1000 headphone. Amps cannot fill in what was never there, and (unless totally underpowered) make only very subtle differences in sound no matter what the cost. Same is true for (non-nos) dacs. If you have a stereo with a headphone jack, skip the headphone amp altogether if it means getting a better headphone.