DOWNLOAD THIS RIGHT NOW. SERIOUSLY.
as much as i love the WA2, unfortunately it cannot drive the HE-500, like at all
my Glenn OTL amp could, and the WA22 had no problems as well. the HE-500 unfortunately couldn't get loud enough for me on the WA2.
I briefly heard the MS2 with a Rotel amp in comparison to a Dragonfly and thought the Dragonfly was nicer sounding, the MS2 can sound a touch grainy, but that is a good price for the MS2 though, so might be worth a shot. I think the MS2+ would be a better option with the Mini-X. The Dragonfly with the Mini-X is a bit of a rollicking setup (too much bass and fun) and with busy congested music the Dragonfly trips over a touch which is quite noticeable with the Mini-X.
The most direct comparison is listening to the Sennheiser's HD595 treble. The way to describe it would be like having a compact camera and having noise in the picture at ISO100. The Dragonfly would be like having no noise at ISO100, but all pictures are taken on an oversaturated picture setting. Next time I'll describe it on the basis of different Cherry MX keys used in mechanical keyboards, but that would be just plain weird!
Grainy is kinda hard to explain IMO. It is not the opposite of smooth, yet something with grainy sound will never sound smooth. It is by no means the sound of peaky fr. Nor can it be compared with a smeared sound. What is grainy actaully in technical terms? When I think grainy, I mostly think about the treble lacking detail, yet not because it's veiled or anything. IMO grainy refers to details being accentuated, yet lacking resolution and micro-dynamics.
For a subjective definition I tend to think about the sound being like very small chunks instead of being a whole, smooth and extended sound when I think grainy.
I think the Asus Essence STX was actually a bit worse, but there I think the grain is more noticeable due to the combination of a highly resolving DAC mixed with a switching power supply. The switching noise of the PSU was definitely noticeable in the sound as grain there. Probably the same issue with the MS2 and its USB filtering. The Asus Essence STX is still the DAC I had for the longest period.
HE-500 driven by Kenwood VR-6060 = pure suck
Since my Lyr won't be back until the 26th now, I decided to compare the HE-500 with the following combos:
Laptop -> Sabre U2+isolator -> JDS Labs C5 -> Grado 6.35mm-to-3.5mm adapter -> cans
PC -> M-Audio Delta AP192 -> Coax -> Kenwood -> Grado extension cable (and not) -> cans
PC -> Sabre U2+isolator -> Monoprice Premium 3.5mm-to-RCA -> Kenwood AUX In -> Grado extension cable (and not) -> cans
PC -> Amazon USB extension cable -> Sabre U2+isolator -> AudioQuest Golden Gate 3.5mm-to-RCA -> Kenwood AUX In -> Grado extension cable (and not) -> cans
The C5 is a fine little amp The M-Audio's DAC lacks some definition, but at least the HE-500s driven by the Kenwood didn't sound like total crap going that route. While there's nothing wrong with the Sabre U2 DAC (I love that li'l thing), using it with the Kenwood sounded like a big muddy mess. The imaging was horrible, with a lead vocal that should have been dead center in my head, seeming like it was coming from the left a bit, and as if the singer were below me, or at least below where he's normally presented. It was bizarre. I blame the Kenwood, not that I had great expectations for it. The Grado extension cable made no difference, in the chain or not. The interconnects did make a difference, but neither could rescue the experiment.
So I see why people chase down vintage amps or go the Emotiva route. Me, I just want my freakin' Lyr back.