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First DAC/amp: HD600 + ? (Maverick A1 or D1, E7/E9, something else?)

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm making my first foray into the world of higher quality audio. I've decided on the HD600, and am trying to decide what amp to get. I've read a ton on this forum, and of course there is lots of great and conflicting info. :)

 

So here's what I'm looking for:

 

Needed: USB DAC/amp

Headphones: HD600

Music Genres: 50% classical, 50% rock/jazz/country/musicals/everything else. I like a lot of music.

Tube? I have no idea. I don't know what to expect with a tube vs. ss. I don't like music muddled, but I'm not clear on the effect that the tube has on sound quality. I don't think I would want to sacrifice clarity.

Budget: < $250

Setting: office, desktop

Sound Desired: clarity, good bass but not overpowering. Hard to say since I haven't heard many setups.

Current Experience: Bose QC2 straight out of generic workstation soundcard. :)

 

 

I've read a ton about the Maverick D1 and A1. It seems that the A1 sounds better than the D1 with the HD600, but I'm worried that a few people mentioned muddled mids and vocals with this combo. Is that something the upgraded tube or replaced opamps could fix?

 

People also seem very happy with the E7/E9 pair, as well, so I'm strongly considering that, despite its looks. The portability of the E7 is a nice bonus as well, though not sure if I should give that much weight.

 

And of course I'll be re-ripping all of my music to lossless (currently 192 WMA)

 

Any insights would be greatly appreciated!

 

-Ben

post #2 of 9

Quote:

Originally Posted by benmwatson View Post

I'm making my first foray into the world of higher quality audio. I've decided on the HD600, and am trying to decide what amp to get. I've read a ton on this forum, and of course there is lots of great and conflicting info. :)

 

So here's what I'm looking for:

 

Needed: USB DAC/amp

Headphones: HD600

Music Genres: 50% classical, 50% rock/jazz/country/musicals/everything else. I like a lot of music.

Tube? I have no idea. I don't know what to expect with a tube vs. ss. I don't like music muddled, but I'm not clear on the effect that the tube has on sound quality. I don't think I would want to sacrifice clarity.

Budget: < $250

Setting: office, desktop

Sound Desired: clarity, good bass but not overpowering. Hard to say since I haven't heard many setups.

Current Experience: Bose QC2 straight out of generic workstation soundcard. :)

 

 

I've read a ton about the Maverick D1 and A1. It seems that the A1 sounds better than the D1 with the HD600, but I'm worried that a few people mentioned muddled mids and vocals with this combo. Is that something the upgraded tube or replaced opamps could fix?

 

People also seem very happy with the E7/E9 pair, as well, so I'm strongly considering that, despite its looks. The portability of the E7 is a nice bonus as well, though not sure if I should give that much weight.

 

And of course I'll be re-ripping all of my music to lossless (currently 192 WMA)

 

Any insights would be greatly appreciated!

 

-Ben


On that budget, and in the market for a DAC and an amp for a total under $250, I'd stay away from tubes.  Solid state will give you better bang for the buck.

 

The E7/E9 is a pretty popular choice on Head-Fi at the price point.  You also can't go wrong with Audio-gd.  The NFB-12, at $200, would fit the bill (Link: http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB12/NFB12EN.htm).  Has a good quality DAC chip, and the amp can drive a pretty wide range of cans.  Additionally, when it comes time to upgrade, you can continue to use it as a dedicated DAC with a separate standalone amp.  I'd send them an e-mail and find out when they'll have it available though, as they've been having problems with demand outstripping supply as of late.

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Why specifically do you say to avoid tube amps at this price point? It seems like there are a few on the market that have gotten decent reviews. Are they really inferior?

post #4 of 9

Quote:

Originally Posted by benmwatson View Post

Why specifically do you say to avoid tube amps at this price point? It seems like there are a few on the market that have gotten decent reviews. Are they really inferior?


Well, you have to figure, the lower the item is priced, the lower the production cost, obviously.  It's difficult to make a truly excellent tube amplifier at that price point.  You'll get a lot more value for your money going solid state.

post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by sridhar3 View Post

Quote:


Well, you have to figure, the lower the item is priced, the lower the production cost, obviously.  It's difficult to make a truly excellent tube amplifier at that price point.  You'll get a lot more value for your money going solid state.


Or in other words good luck finding a decent tube amp for under $200 while still factoring in money for a decent Dac....solid state offers more bang for the buck within your budget but only because you can't get decent dedicated equipment (especially tubes) within the budget you've set there....at least not as far as I can see....so as far as I can tell tube amps are a cut above but have a price tag to reflect this though solid state on a budget is the next best thing and certainly better than nothing.

 

One thing though, Don't cheap out on your supporting equipment, I've made that mistake and it's only like throwing good money away because even cheaper stuff costs money. I never understand these people who purchase quality headphones and then purchase the cheapest headphone amp on the market that they can possibly find - isn't that akin to purchasing a Porshe and then putting the engine of a Fiat Punto into it ? Kind of defeats the object a little....anyway, I'm learning the hard  way - spend an equal amount on your supporting equipment and don't try to cheap out.....I didn't go for the cheapest on the market that I could find but I still cheaped out some....better than nothing sure but you get what you pay for - can't put it any simpler.... 

 


Edited by Thommohawk - 5/18/11 at 4:39pm
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

I am definitely sympathetic to the viewpoint of not cheaping out on supporting equipment, but there definitely have to be limits. $1000 is out of the question, $500 will definitely not make my wife happy. So I am definitely looking for an entry-level DAC/amp, and when I'm rich and famous, I can upgrade to whatever I want. :)

post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by benmwatson View Post

I am definitely sympathetic to the viewpoint of not cheaping out on supporting equipment, but there definitely have to be limits. $1000 is out of the question, $500 will definitely not make my wife happy. So I am definitely looking for an entry-level DAC/amp, and when I'm rich and famous, I can upgrade to whatever I want. :)



YES!! You and me both, brother...you and me both. :P

 

I hear what you're saying, no force on heaven or earth would make me spend anywhere near 1000 on any 1 component no matter how good it sounded given my current lifestyle/finances. But cost and total costs are all relative to what you spend on other electronic items or so I find....not that I'm deliberately trying to justify anything but let's say you purchased a Cambridge Audio DacMagic + Little Dot MK III tube amp + quality well respected headphones (let's say Beyer DT 880) they all are about the same price each, totalling in GBP £600 which is a lot of cash but having said that it's no more than what you'd spend on a decent HDTV or multiple games consoles - or even a respectable gaming PC. And they all have excellent resale value as it's well respected and quality gear. So it's all relative I suppose. 

 

Also if you want to make the wife happy, you're in the wrong hobby! Could be worse though, just tell her you could have been an alcoholic instead of an audiophile....


Edited by Thommohawk - 5/19/11 at 2:43pm
post #8 of 9

Along with the E7/E9, you should also look into other common budget dac/amps at that price range like the Audio-GD NFB-12, Yulong U100, Audinst HUD-MX1. You're not going to find any tube based dac/amp combos at this price range except the Maverick so just forget about any tubes vs SS debate. You could also go perhaps one step further, get this super-cheap $39 open box uDac2 from http://www.shorelinemusic.com/closeouts.shtml and find a decent $200 amp like a used KICAS or CKKIII

post #9 of 9

Bumping up this thread as I am in the same shoes as the OP except my setup will be Macbook ALAC iTunes --> USB --> first ever DAC/AMP --> HD600.

 

Wondering how the Mav D1 compares with the Audio gd Compass. If anyone could share some light and wisdom to which is better/why and if that setup seems like a decent setup. Thanks!

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