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Making the plunge into headphone bliss

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I've been lurking around here for a while -- and my thanks to all of you for giving me a good sense of direction.

 

I decided to go from a good-but-not-exalted headphone rig to something a lot better. After years of using (and enjoying) Sennheiser HD 600s, I moved up to HD 800s; I've had those for a while now. But I was aware that I wasn't extracting the maximum out of them, with a Mac Pro feeding into a Benchmark DAC1 USB and its headphone output. I think the DAC1 is a first-class product, but I'm not sure it's ideal for Sennheiser 800s. Overall the Senns sounded a bit clinical with the DAC1, but they improved quite a bit through the headphone jack of my Arcam integrated amplifier. I noticed on the forums here that my sense of the HD 800 being fussy about amplification was shared by other folks.

 

So I've upped the ante considerably, much to the detriment of my bank account but to the delight of my ears. Now the 800s are driven by a Luxman P-1u amplifier, itself fed by a Bryston BDA-1 DAC, preceded by a Musical Fidelity V-Link and then into my Mac Pro's USB port. I'm moving between iTunes and Amarra MINI for playback; I prefer the Amarra sound, but its interface remains a bit rough around the edges. My music library is almost entirely in Apple Lossless format, with a sprinkling of AIFF files, and a huddled clutch of mp3s mostly resulting from downloads.

 

The new rig - Sennheiser, Denon, Bryston, and Luxman

 

That's the setup in the picture above. Both the Luxman and Bryston have had enough time to play in, and the results are nothing less than astonishing. I auditioned the Luxman amp at the dealer with my HD800s, and they lit up like Christmas trees. There's a fine synergy between the HD800s and the Luxman P-1u. Maybe that partnership can be duplicated with another amplifier, but I couldn't be happier with this one. It's a lot of audio real estate on my desk, but I listen mostly with headphones in my home office, as opposed via speakers in the living room.

 

I've been finding that I prefer to send an unmodified digital stream through the V-Link -- well, except for 16-bit to 24-bit in the case of 44.1 files -- and then to let the Bryston handle upsampling. At least to date my ears like that better than in-computer upsampling. Sort of like rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's; i.e., use the computer to manage, catalog, and send the data stream on its way, let the Bryston transform that data into an analog signal, then hand the finished analog signal over to the Luxman to do what it does so well. I imagine a line of sous-chefs each contributing to an entrée that is subsequently brought to my table by my faithful waiter, Herr Sennheiser.

 

Cheers,

Scott

post #2 of 24

what kinda role does the phone play in this setup :)

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

It's there for me to call 911 should I have a bliss-related heart attack while listening.

post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottlf View Post

It's there for me to call 911 should I have a bliss-related heart attack while listening.



:)

post #5 of 24

any RF interference from the wireless phone?

post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 

Nothing that I have detected. If it causes any ruckus, I'll move it.

post #7 of 24
Congratulations Scott, that is quite an enviable rig!

Cheers!
post #8 of 24

scottlf,

Very nice setup you got there.  I love the Luxman sound.  I have the P-1u's little brother, the P-200.  It's currently driving my Beydynamic T1, and that is a very good pairing as well.  Unfortunately, I can't afford the P-1u with my grad student budget. 

 

The Bryston DAC and P1-u looks great together! 

post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lmf22 View Post

scottlf,

Very nice setup you got there.  I love the Luxman sound.  I have the P-1u's little brother, the P-200.  It's currently driving my Beydynamic T1, and that is a very good pairing as well.  Unfortunately, I can't afford the P-1u with my grad student budget. 

 

The Bryston DAC and P1-u looks great together! 


I didn't get a chance to hear the P-200 but I understand that it's similar to the P-1u, which means gorgeous sound. I have to admit that I was taken with the idea of all that brushed aluminum, so I was careful to order the Bryston with the silver faceplate and not black.

 

You're doing great to have a P-200/T1 combo on a grad student budget -- bravo! In my grad days I was still limited to the little RCA record player with detachable speakers (covered in red fabric, no less) and Radio Shack headphones that had been my Christmas present from the folks in, oh, 1968 or thereabouts. About once a month I would take the streetcar to Odyssey Records in downtown San Francisco and buy one or two LPs, always an agonizing decision. Then I'd play them practically down to the bare vinyl. Fortunately I had access to a good record library at my conservatory, and the playback equipment in the listening room was a significant step up from my home rig. But one of the first things I bought when an income starting trickling in was a better amplifier -- still modest but a big step up nonetheless -- and a pair of big, hefty Pioneer headphones. For those days, and my budget, it wasn't bad. A far, far cry from audiophile standards, especially in those last days of analog-only audio.

 

post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Permagrin View Post

Congratulations Scott, that is quite an enviable rig!

Cheers!


Thanks! I'm loving all this glorious sound.

post #11 of 24

ow, that Luxman amp is so great, and also good looking!

 

I had the pleasure to hear it at a meet. It could even moderately give juice to a K1000!

post #12 of 24

Wow, nice setup man. I bet you spent lots on it..i wonder how it pairs with ortho hp's? 

post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by desktophifi View Post

Wow, nice setup man. I bet you spent lots on it..i wonder how it pairs with ortho hp's? 


Good question on the Orthos -- I don't know. The Luxman is a warm-sounding amp, but not smushy at all. (I really don't like smush.) I haven't tried it yet with a few of my other headphones here at home, although I will be doing so in the near future. I'm just so blown away by its performance with the Senn 800s that I haven't wanted to spend time with any other phone.

 

But I have Senn HD 600, Grado SR80i, Denon AD-H7000 (I've tried that one a little) and B&W P5s that I use mostly on the go. This should be interesting.

 

post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Proglover View Post

ow, that Luxman amp is so great, and also good looking!

 

I had the pleasure to hear it at a meet. It could even moderately give juice to a K1000!



The Luxman is definitely powerful -- it can kick my Senn 800, a hard-to-drive phone, although nothing like a K1000. From what I can tell, the Luxman doesn't change its sound significantly at different volume levels, including the loudest I could tolerate (for a short time).

 

The amp's fit & finish is outstanding. There's nothing even remotely second-rate about any of it. The volume control has a fine heft and swing to it, the headphone jacks themselves are snug but not too snug, and you can tell that somebody gave a lot of thought to the size and recess of the power switch, together with the fetching robin's-egg blue of the tiny "on" light. It has that Jonathan Ive aesthetic about it, albeit within a traditionalist ethos overall. I noticed that about the Luxman power amps and integrated amps as well -- they honor the look of the past but bring it into the present. I like that.

 

The Bryston DAC oozes that same sense of care and quality. And then with a top-of-the-line Sennheiser headphone—Canadian, Japanese, and German engineering all on display. And a big Mac Pro beneath them, adding first-class American design to the mix.

 

I'm thinking of moving the telephone, though -- it's kinda pedestrian in that exalted company.

post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottlf View Post

 

I'm thinking of moving the telephone, though -- it's kinda pedestrian in that exalted company.



Can't say I disagree with that smily_headphones1.gif

 

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